Oasis Community Health Center

The Oasis Community Health Center (Center), is a sustainable building prototype for a health center designed to serve the Eastern Riverside County, California. Oasis is an agricultural community located at the northwestern shore of the Salton Sea. The climate is a hot-arid climate, with average rainfall of three inches per year. Summer temperatures average 108 degrees F throughout the summer, and can exceed 120 degrees F.

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Impoundment system, overhead drawing. Side drawing of house. Driveway
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Impoundment system, sectional view. Longitudinal section view. Stormwater runoff flow.
Impoundment system, overhead drawing.    
  1. Transit Stop
  2. Southern View
  3. Parking Area
  4. Siteplan
  5. Floorplan
  6. Courtyard View
  7. Courtyard Section

Project Description

The full time population is of Oasis is 7,000. During harvest season the population increases with an influx of 40,000 migrant farm workers. Currently the nearest health facilities are twenty miles west in Coachella, or fifty miles south in Brawley. Because of the costs of services in the area, a large percentage of the population, especially the farm worker population, travel 80 miles to Mexico for medical services. The Center was conceived to serve this community, both permanent and migrant, with health services at an affordable cost.

In order to fulfill this mission, the Center by necessity needs to be an economical structure, particularly regarding operating costs. Two main design factors that are immediately apparent were cost of and access to materials, and response to the climate. Traditional strategies, such as daylighting and deep window shades were used in the design. An earth coupled water source heat pump system, utilizing the earth and cisterns below the courtyard has been proposed as a means to minimize the costs of cooling the facility. Structural concrete insulated panels are proposed for the exterior walls, providing both additional thermal mass and insulation. All are readily available systems.

Consensus building meetings were conducted with the client, Center operator, governmental agencies and community groups. A strong message from the community was a desire to maintain the agricultural heritage of their community. Seeing this as an opportunity, we integrated local agriculture, (dates and citrus) into the project. Instead of a landscaped site increasing maintenance costs, we have instead a means to subsidize operating costs through leasing portions of the site for dates and citrus.

Ecological Quality and Energy Saving

Design principles include use of durable materials, locally available materials, creating thermal mass, and using systems such as daylighting and geothermal cooling. Rainwater is captured and cleaned on site using filters and phyto-remediation, then used for the landscaping. A courtyard cistern collects water where it is also used as thermal mass for the building cooling systems.

Economic performance and compatibility

We have established a partnership with a lender to lease energy generating equipment, allowing the building owners to install this equipment without the upfront costs associated with this equipment. The lease is structured to establish a payment schedule where the monthly payment is equivalent to the average current energy bill for the Center. With this model, the term of lease is less than the 20 year life of the equipment, and the Center will be in a position to own the equipment, generating free energy after 10 to 12 years. Another model structures the lease to increase the term to match the life of the equipment, lowering energy costs below current monthly energy bills.

Proposed on-site revenue generating crops provide additional income while reductions in costs are achieved through the use of energy saving materials and design strategies, such as roof monitors and insulated concrete panel construction.

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