Michelle Weimer, in-house interior designer at MetroHealth, explains why she chose Ultrafabrics to upholster furniture at a major new medical facility and for the company’s future projects.
MetroHealth offers more than just healthcare—it is the cornerstone of an entire community in Cuyahoga County in Northeast Ohio, U.S.A. The first MetroHealth hospital opened back to 1837 as an infirmary for the chronically ill, aged and poor of the newly founded city of Cleveland. It has since evolved into a county-wide operation including four hospitals, four emergency departments and over twenty health centers employing over 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees.
The latest MetroHealth medical facility is the Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital spanning 700,000 sq ft which welcomed its first patients in November 2022. When the company’s in-house interior designer Michelle Weimer began to work on the interiors scheme for this new inpatient tower with HGA from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the goal was to select a colourful response to refresh MetroHealth’s brand.
“At the drawing board, I was looking for furniture upholstery fabrics that offered comfort, sustainability, high performance and a range of colors and textures that would reflect our new logo,” said Michelle. “Ultrafabrics met all these criteria.”
Kate Bautista from HGA concurred. “Ultrafabrics’ impressive hand and matte, fabric-like qualities made it our preferred choice above all others after evaluating functional criteria on MetroHealth. Addressing the tactile experience of coated upholstery in a positive way is where Ultrafabrics excels, and others fall short. They come highly recommended by me for any healthcare project.”
An impressive range
Michelle decided on the palette of the scheme for the Glick Center by looking at the natural hues in the parkland surrounding the hospital and picking out colours from historic public murals in Cleveland.
“The inspiration for the colour scheme was ‘natural health’. The colors needed to be a mix of neutrals and rich, bold tones to create a positive and bright environment,” she said.
She was impressed by the colour range, high-quality haptics and choice of textures that Ultrafabrics had to offer across its many collections of premium polyurethane materials. She specified Ultraleather, Reef Pro, Fresco, Wired and Cove (which has since been discontinued) to upholster the furniture throughout the Glick Center, but this wasn’t just a decision governed by aesthetics.
“Hospitals are high-traffic spaces with rigorous cleaning regimes. When it comes to fabrics, our procurement guidelines dictate that we can only purchase polyurethanes as cheaper vinyls often leak PVCs into the water supply. This would contravene MetroHealth’s policies to comply with Healthier Hospitals (HH) and Practice Greenhealth standards.”
MetroHealth’s Office of Sustainability was set up in 2018 to improve health and wellness across the organization via environmental stewardship. Under its guidance, the company has been a recipient of an Environmental Excellence Award from Practice Greenhealth for the last four years running.
The Glick Center marked an important milestone in a sustainable transformation program that is being rolled out across the whole MetroHealth campus. The construction and design of the tower was focused on achieving high levels of environmental and wellness standards, including LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver and WELL building certifications.
“When I graduated eight years ago, sustainability wasn’t a big issue in interior design,” explained Michelle. “Now it governs every choice of finish, flooring and paint and how these materials will affect patients and the wider environment.”
Once again, Ultrafabrics fit the brief. Its products are PVC-free, REACH compliant, PETA Approved and manufactured at a Japanese mill that is ISO 14001 certified. Over half the company’s products already include 50% renewable or recycled resources. It has committed to making all of its fabrics with 50% renewables by 2030. Ultraleather, for example, already contains renewable TENCELÔ fibers.
MetroHealth has ambitious plans for the future. The company wants to redefine healthcare by looking beyond medical treatments to improve the foundations of community health and well-being. The MetroHealth System supports and campaigns for affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation and legal help.
For Michelle, the interiors of the Glick Center have set the tone for a wider scheme that reflects MetroHealth’s long-term vision. She is working on a complete refresh of all the ambulatory sites throughout the entire facility in 2024, plus a fit-out for a new outpatient building that will house 300,000 sq ft of clinical space including cancer care, rehab and offices.
“I’m in the process of identifying furniture and finishes,” said Michelle. “This new facility will be connected to the Glick Center so the interiors will need a strong visual link. I’ll be specifying Ultrafabrics again as I really like their products. They will form part of the basis of my designs at MetroHealth moving forward.”
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