Giving nature a lift

Redwood elevator

At every level, the lobby’s main elevator bank in the expanded Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford shows a deep commitment to recycling, sustainability, and the environment.

Encased in reclaimed redwood slats salvaged from the Moffett Field hangar in Mountain View, the elevator integrates the building’s sense of nature from the ground up.

“The elevator tower looks and feels like being inside a redwood tree,” said Robin Guenther, principal at Perkins+Will and the lead designer of the hospital expansion. “Early on we explored the idea of mimicking a redwood tree trunk with the elevator core. We wanted it to feel like a real tree that kids could touch and hug. We wanted the experience to be grand and very tactile.”

The Bay Area’s deep sense of environmental responsibility is a driving force behind the hospital expansion, which prioritized sustainability and the use of natural materials as a central design concept. Themes of nature have been integrated and interpreted into all aspects of the facility to create a warm, nurturing, and “only-in-California” environment. Native flora and fauna act as inspiration, and motifs of topography, creatures, landscapes, and gardens are integrated throughout the building.

The building is themed around the land-based ecoregions of California, with each floor featuring the plants and animals of various landscapes. The elevator design mirrors that concept: on upper floors, the redwood casing features built-in niches to house whimsical yet lifelike bronze sculptures of each level’s representative animal, including the California red-legged frog, raccoons, the tiger salamander, and a kit fox. The redwood elevator bank allows for more space and privacy for families in the hospital with a separate elevator for staff.

The recycled material for the elevator came about by a lucky coincidence of timing. Guenther’s design team knew they wanted to use reclaimed old-growth redwood for the elevator bank but did not have a definite source. As hospital construction progressed, Moffett Hangar One, a Silicon Valley landmark just nine miles away, was being demolished. When crews removed the roof’s metal sheathing, they found layers of California redwood that had been milled in Northern California in the 1920s during the heyday of the state’s redwood lumber industry. They removed more than 700,000 board feet—about 1.6 million tons—of old-growth redwood siding.

“There was enough reclaimed wood to do the entire vertical elevator tower and more,” said Guenther. And because the material was only minimally milled, there is a good possibility that the wood will be usable for another project 100 years from now.

Recycled and reclaimed wood from other sites is used throughout the hospital expansion. Interior and exterior trellises are constructed old-growth redwood reclaimed from Wente Winery in Livermore and Pacific Lumber Company mill buildings that were dismantled in Seattle. (The Pacific Lumber Company, established in 1863, was one of California’s major logging and sawmill operations that processed most of the old growth redwood harvesting in the 1800s.) Wood from that same source is used throughout the Stanford campus for decks and outdoor framework.

“Sustainability and environmental consciousness are seamlessly woven into the experience of the building—from recycled material to the harmonious integration of outdoor nature experiences,” said Guenther. “From the very beginning, we knew that the new building would be highly sustainable and that thematically it would be all about nature.”

And when those elevator doors open and close, it will be a lift to the spirits as well.

Discover more about our new hospital.


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