The timing was right for a new direction. TRA Medical Imaging consolidated two of their Tacoma outpatient sites — TRA Tacoma on Cedar and TRA Tacoma on Union — in order to provide a wider range of imaging services under one roof. During the planning stages, the heads of TRA decided not to tear down their location on Union — they decided to expand and renovate in an eco-friendly way.
“It just made sense,” said Chris Coates, CFO and interim CEO of TRA. “We were very excited about the possibility of reducing our carbon footprint and helping the environment. So that’s what we decided to do.”
The story begins in the spring of 2016 when the lease was ending at the Cedar location, the medical group used for 15 years. Around the same time, they acquired a new piece of oncology screening equipment, which was quite large – so large that an expansion would be necessary to house it. That’s when TRA made plans to consolidate into their other location on Union Avenue.
When Coates went over the plans with their architect, they realized they were onto an idea that would not only give the center more space, but end up doing much more. The renovated building not only houses the large equipment nicely, it reduces carbon emissions and the design even recycles items from its pre-renovated state.
“We found it would be more economical for us to reuse some of these materials instead of throwing them away and buying new ones,” Coates explained. “I think we have a responsibility to be good stewards of our environment.”
“We had done studies to figure out what would happen if we tore down the existing site,” said Doug McNutt, Principal with Salus Architecture. “We realized that, yes, we could do that. But if we kept the original, we’d not only save money, we’d create something quite amazing.”
McNutt and his team said they “wrapped” the new building around the old one, adding close to 6,000 square feet to it, which expands the entire structure to a total of 11,827 square feet. Coates stated that they reused about 70 percent of the materials from the old building, including the cabinetry, pillars and doors. To keep with the green theme, they also purchased recycled carpeting to cover the floors.
“We really tried to anticipate what they would need in the future when designing this space,” McNutt said. His team put together a plan so TRA would avoid something called churning. “That means, we wanted to give them what they would need in a few years. We didn’t want them coming back in five or ten years and going through another renovation process because they outgrew their space again. Obviously, you can’t anticipate everything, but if you plan a layout correctly, you can avoid a lot of churn down the line.”
The design also utilizes energy-efficient LED lights, as well as large windows to capture as much daylight as possible.
“Even though LED lights are a lot better than what we used to use in the past,” McNutt said, “bringing daylight into spaces allows us to keep the lights off during the day. That reduces wattage use which really makes a big difference overall.”
While doing their part to save the environment and saving money is important to TRA, it’s not the only goal of these renovations. Just as important as the bottom line and helping the planet is making sure their patients are comfortable.
“The patient experience was something that we were very aware of with this project,” said Douglas Seiler, MD, President of TRA-MINW. “We wanted a facility that was going to be warm and welcoming, not a traditional medical facility. We instead wanted it to look like a home or a retail space.”
“By utilizing daylight and making this space more open,” Coates explained, “patients experience a real reduction in their anxiety. Going to the doctor for tests to check for life threatening diseases is not the most comfortable thing to go through. So anything we can do to reduce that anxiety is something that we really wanted to do.”
The renovated TRA building is open now and accepting patients. Call 253-761-4200 to schedule an appointment or visit TRA-MINW’s website for more information. The TRA Union location is located at 2502 South Union Avenue, Tacoma, WA 98405.