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Planner reflects on ‘miracle’ building

Three years ago, Facilities Planners Architects Inc. faced
big challenges in designing CBHNP‘s office in Dauphin County:
arduous setback requirements, CBHNP’s rapid growth and tight time and budget
constraints.

Three years ago, Facilities Planners Architects Inc. faced
big challenges in designing CBHNP‘s office in Dauphin County:
arduous setback requirements, CBHNP’s rapid growth and tight time and budget
constraints. FP A conquered those challenges and designed a building with large
windows that show off gorgeous green surroundings, efficient lighting and a
traditional yet modern look.

John Myers of Lower Paxton Township-based FP A managed the
project, which was essentially finished in December.

“For the budget he had to work with, he made a miracle
here,” said Robert Rineer, a facilities-maintenance employee with CBHNP. That’s
short for Community Behavioral HealthCare Network of Pennsylvania Inc., a
managed-care company that provides behavioral-health and human-service programs
in the public and private sectors. The AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies, a
Philadelphia-based national Medicaid managed-care company, acquired CBHNP in
January.

Myers and Rineer recently showed off the building, near
routes 22 and 39 in West
Hanover Township,
at the request of the Business Journal, highlighting design features and
recalling the journey of the project.

We walked through the main entrance of the building and
began the tour on the east side of the building, on the first floor.

The original plan called for a much smaller building, Myers
said. That changed because CBHNP was expanding quickly, and the building’s size
roughly doubled to 56,000 square feet. A second side of the three-story brick
building – the east side, with more windows and about as much space – was
added.

“The primary design principle here was bringing views and
natural light as far inside the building as possible,” Myers said. “In a
traditional design, these views are reserved for CEO offices or large
conference rooms. We tried to open these areas up to more common spaces.”

“The employees really appreciate that,” Rineer said. “You
can see a difference in attitudes.”

In the clinical department, Myers explained the
direct/indirect lighting, which increases efficiency and reduces glare.
However, higher ceilings are needed to hang the lights, and higher buildings
equal higher costs.

“I have less complaints about lighting than any other
building I’ve worked at,” said Rineer, who has 30 years of maintenance
experience.

The air quality is better than it was in CBHNP’s old
buildings, where higher carbon-dioxide levels made workers sleepy, Myers said.

FP A centralized the new building’s four workrooms, with
copier and fax machines and the like, to protect employees from noise and fumes
that gave some workers breathing difficulties or headaches, Myers said.

Next, we hit the kitchen, which soon will be renovated to
serve food to employees. An attached deck offers views of countless trees, and
workers have seen deer, Rineer said.

“(Workers) use it hard,” Rineer said. “In fact, I need to
order more tables and umbrellas.”

Below are rain gardens, which purify water more efficiently
and look nicer than retention ponds, the former norm, Myers said.

We rode an elevator upstairs and started in the corporate
suite. The boardroom is above the deck.

“This area has the next level better of finishes, much more
interesting carpeting,” Myers said. “The offices are a little bit larger.”

A college intern designed part of the executive offices, and
Myers said he loved her work.

Down the hall is a small conference room. A steel column was
used instead of drywall to block less of the view outside, he said.

Originally, that view was going to be different. A civil
engineer moved the building site. Myers rotated the facility’s layout and ended
up with twice as much curved glass. He called the change “a blessing in
disguise.”

A prominent design touch is the many sizable plants that
hang outside workers’ cube walls and on windowsills in common areas.

“You have this open glass for everybody to share, so we see
the green trees. To bring that inbound really makes the windows transparent,”
Myers said.

In a break room, he recalled another design issue: a flat,
black rubber roof he said looked ugly from the room. A contractor covered the
roof with playground mulch to hide the eyesore.

On a stairwell railing, Myers used steel cables instead of
posts for an improved design.

The floor is ceramic tile that looks like stone, he said.

“For me to walk into this building, it’s like a sense of
adventure …” Rineer said. “Thirty to 40 years from now, it’ll still look like a
modern building.”

“There’s a sense of security that comes with traditional
materials, like the brick, the tile floors. The company needs to relay that
security to its clients and employees,” Myers said. “At the same time, you
introduce materials such as the exposed steel columns. It’s that style that
maybe you look at and say, ‘Hey, maybe you’re a little more open to the people
you work with.’ I guess that’s the adventure or the art, that it’s open to
interpretation.”

We walked to the basement and checked out the fitness room,
which CBHNP’s chief financial officer requested, Myers said. The bathrooms
include showers.

We looked at a classroom where insurance providers are
trained. CBHNP used to rent space in hotels and restaurants for training, he
said.

We stopped by the mailroom, which also has windows, Myers
noted with a laugh.

Rineer is modifying the room to better use it.

“That’s the hardest part about design is it’s impossible to
get it just right,” Myers said.

We visited the receiving dock, electric-distribution,
storage and information-technology areas.

Finally, we stepped outside, near a patio below the deck.

“Well, that’s about it,” Myers said.

Asked to reflect on the project, he said: “I’m hopeful that
the client will continue to grow and need to do another one, and that seems
very likely.”

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