Building the “Community” into Community Healthcare

A Holistic View of Healthcare

The delivery and accessibility of healthcare is ever evolving, particularly as it becomes more personalized and prioritized at the individual and community levels. As Central Texas continues to grow, the population shifts are driving a new look at how to deliver optimum care across multiple medical specialties. Not only are solutions to physical needs being identified, but mental and emotional well-being are also becoming part of a more holistic view of individual health.

Bringing Community and Accessibility Together

This “whole-human” approach to well-being and healthcare delivery means that the buildings in which these services are delivered must be innovative and flexible, in addition to fostering community engagement. For many communities the distance between healthcare resources requiring transportation to access services, such as a freestanding emergency clinic with a pharmacy several blocks away, primary care offices in a different location and a dental office miles from there – all disparately located no longer serves the population effectively. Accessibility means that people are able to receive the care they need, without an increased burden.

Serving Del Valle

Central Health took a community-centric approach when they realized the opportunity to serve the Del Valle population in Central Texas. Demographic studies demonstrated a need for multiple healthcare services, in addition to better access to affordable care. Central Health’s careful look into community needs identified a significant list of services that were missing or difficult to reach. The resulting facility was designed with the Del Valle population in mind, to foster mental and physical wellbeing while building community among Southeast Travis County residents.

“Working with Central Health in a collaborative design process ensured O’Connell Robertson understood its unique needs and helped to achieve the specific requirements that supported the project and best interests of the community.” – Ray Moreno, Associate at O’Connell Robertson

Taking a More Comprehensive Approach

In order to facilitate Central Health’s mission to serve the community of Del Valle, a special Health and Wellness Center was envisioned. The O’Connell Robertson team partnered with Central Health to ensure that the programming was aligned with community needs while also creating flexibility for future changes or expansion. The resulting Del Valle Health and Wellness Center is a one-story, 18,904 SF facility that brings together a comprehensive primary care clinic, adult and pediatric dental care clinic, and a Class A Pharmacy with a drive through.

The pediatric dentistry area has an especially open concept that gives the young patients an environment that is conducive to relaxation. Artwork is also incorporated to enhance the soothing environment. The inclusion of a pharmacy means patients can fill and refill prescriptions at the point of care. Prescription delivery is also available to increase access and patient compliance.  O’Connell Robertson was able to incorporate the necessary enhancements to create an on-premise pharmacy that still met security and safety requirements. The design included a single drive-through window with video monitoring and security shutters, in addition to high-security door locks and access control systems.

In addition to specific exam and procedure rooms for primary and emergency care, there are also flexible rooms for medical specialists and mental health professionals and patients. The Health and Wellness Center provides lab space, sterilization areas, and x-ray facilities, along with administrative support, storage, and other auxiliary spaces. Rather than isolated, dedicated physician offices, a more collaborative approach was taken to create an open floor plan workspace for the physicians and staff to provide cooperative, coordinated patient care. With the understanding that community growth and needs will continue to drive changes in healthcare delivery, a portion of the Health and Wellness Center space was reserved for expansion or addition of new programs.

Central Health’s holistic view of serving the Del Valle community encompassed the creation of a place that was not just for solving immediate health concerns. Indoor conference and meeting areas are connected to outdoor gathering space with a community garden. Creating a safe space that included an unobtrusive border fence to separate play areas from the parking lot was an important component of welcoming the members of the community to adopt the Center as a destination not just for sickness, but also for connectedness.

Openness, welcome, and tranquility were themes throughout the design. The entry consists of a large, glass windows to facilitate a sense of brightness, and to elevate the spaces with natural light. The lobby is deliberately designed with a more communal feel that is fluid and facilitates check-in and wayfinding.


Coordinating Design Disciplines

One aspect of design that proved to be of utmost importance was the coordination of architecture and engineering systems among O’Connell Robertson’s design team members. With MEP engineering and architecture under the same roof, it was easy to meet regularly and access current files in real-time. Instantaneous access to changes and the ability to ask and answer questions enabled the project to remain on track in spite of major scope or programming changes.

For example, after meeting with Central Health about programming needs, an entire area’s configuration changed. Nearly ⅓ of the building’s floorplan was impacted by a reconfiguration of vaccine rooms, laboratory and administrative spaces. On the same day, the team was able to confirm the purpose of changes and coordinate nearly instantaneously. All MEP systems were impacted and design conflicts were quickly resolved. Careful coordination meant no time was lost and the project remained on schedule even when major adjustments were required.

Addressing Environmental Impact

Working towards the City of Austin Generation 2025 Plan & 2050 Climate Plan with a net-zero energy capable goal, the facility was designed to be solar ready. Solar panels on the roof provide a portion of the building’s power supply. In addition, this design includes an onsite water reuse system to provide landscape irrigation through rainwater harvesting and condensate collection. Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations are included with dedicated parking spaces.


The new center in Del Valle integrates multiple services in a single location providing more convenient access to resources to a typically underserved population, supporting a healthier community. O’Connell Robertson is dedicated to bringing mission-driven projects like this one to life.

Take a look at some of our other healthcare projects here.