Want to design an infant ICU? Ask their parents what they need.

January 31, 2014 Russ Wlad

Engaging within our communities isn’t just a good thing to do. It makes us, as designers, better at our job - and isn't that the point?


So often, we talk of aligning community engagement efforts with our clients. It seems like common sense. It is, however, much more than just a pat on the back to a client. It makes us better at our jobs.

Next week, Stantec will be supporting the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation through their annual Caring for Kids Radiothon. This is the 5th year that we have both donated to the foundation, and sent volunteers to answer phones and take pledges. However, our work with the Alberta Children’s Hospital began much earlier. We had a hand in designing the original facility in 2006. One of our proudest contributions is the design of the Healing Gardens, which fuses the connection between nature and healing. Each area of the garden responds to specific therapeutic needs, while providing a genuine “backyard” feel where families can gather and kids can just be kids, regardless of their ailment.

Alberta Children’s Hospital


Most recently, our architecture team designed the new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), which brings a completely new level of care for the hospital’s tiniest patients. Our team talked to parents of infant ICU patients to understand what they really need while their babies are undergoing constant monitoring and treatment. We learned what it’s like to be at the hospital 24 hours a day. We learned what we could do to ease some of the stress and make it feel more like home.

Thanks to our community investment initiative, our designers didn’t have to start from scratch to get into the proper mindset. Regardless of whether or not we are working on a project with the Alberta Children’s Hospital, for three days every year the Calgary office is immersed in the stories of brave kids and their families who are fighting the cruelest of diseases—and winning thanks to the amazing staff who rally to their side. You can read some of these stories here.

At the same time, our volunteers and leaders put out the call for donations while the radiothon plays in common areas. Thanks to this, before we ever take on the project, we know what these families are up against, and the incredible impact this facility has on our community.

I think it’s valuable for everyone to take a look at the causes they volunteer for, the organizations they support and the charities they donate to, and look at it not only as the right thing to do, but how it can support and enhance the work we do as design professionals in our communities.

In the meantime, the Caring for Kids Radiothon is coming up on Feb. 5 to 7 on Country 105 in Calgary, with the Stantec Power Hour from 7 to 8 a.m. on Feb. 7. You can support the cause at www.childrenshospital.ab.ca/goto/Stantec2014 or just listen in and get inspired by the incredible work being done at this hospital.

We’re proud our relationship with the Alberta Children’s Hospital doesn’t end when our projects do. We value our long-term connection through the radiothon for the positive impact on the community, and because as designers, we’re better for it.

About the Author

Russ Wlad

Russ Wlad is Stantec’s regional operating unit leader for Canada. He has over 27 years of experience leading multi-disciplinary teams and providing collaborative solutions for clients. Russ is passionate about serving his community. He spends time coaching minor hockey and is proud to call Red Deer home.

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