CDH Partners

CDHCDH Partners plans to continue designing spaces that meet clients’ needs and stay forward-thinking over the next 40 years.

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

CDH Partners takes a client-centered approach to designing spaces that make a difference. Every church, school and hospital the firm designs embodies the vision of the client to suit the needs of the congregation, students and parents or the community as a whole.

“Something that differentiates us from some of the firms that have a national presence in some categories, and this is not to knock them, but people can look at their buildings and say this was designed by firm XYZ,” Principal Mary Lindeman says. “They have a style you visually recognize. We intentionally don’t go into a project to create a CDH style. We have fewer egos and go into it wanting to take the vision of our client. We go in and don’t leave our footsteps behind because it’s their building and their success.” CDH Partners info box

The Marietta, Ga.-based firm was founded in 1977 and named after its three founding partners, Bill Chegwidden, Don Dorsey and Chuck Holmes. The company was incorporated in 1993 as CDH Partners Inc. and is a nationally recognized design firm consisting of a professional team of architects, interior designers, engineers and specialists.

“We have always been a firm that prides itself on having a personal relationship with clients, helping them imagine more for their facilities, overcome issues, solve problems and achieve their goals,” Associate Principal Danny Mackey says. “We treat every client like they are the only one we have.”

Lindeman is one of six principals at the firm, which includes a team of 61 professionals total. CDH specializes in hospitals, outpatient facilities, long-term care, places of worship, education and research buildings, and corporate office projects.

Healthcare, which includes long-term care and assisted living, makes up about 60 percent of CDH’s business. Education and worship facilities make up the remaining 40 percent.

CDH has made a name for itself in Georgia by listening to what its clients want and taking a personable approach to every project. “We don’t come in with a set solution,” Mackey says. “We take the time to talk about the church or hospital and find out what their goals and objectives are, and what their perceived needs may be.

“We take that information, look at all the data and come up with solutions that may or may not have been what they thought was their primary solution to begin with,” he continues. “We try to assimilate the data we have based on the needs the client has and come up with a solution that maybe a little more outside the box than what they had planned.”

Healthcare with a View 

CDH designed the new Mountain Lakes Medical Center in Clayton, Ga., a 56,000-square-foot, 25-bed critical access replacement hospital that includes outpatient and emergency services. “We developed relationships with InMed Group, the owner of the project, and we have talked back and forth about the project for years,” Mackey says. “It took three years to get it off the drawing boards and actually get it completed this past summer.”

The mountainous region provides the perfect landscape for the facility and CDH took every opportunity to accentuate that, Mackey says. “This piece of property is on the hillside, so you can see it if you are driving north,” he adds. “The campus features a boardwalk that stretches from front to back that’s open air. It serves as a plaza and vista lookout for visitors, and all patient rooms have floor-to-ceiling glass walls to accentuate the views. There is a lot of glass used to take advantage of the scenery.”

CDH’s biggest challenge on the Mountain Lakes Medical Center project was the site work and providing for future expandability. InMed has proposed adding a freestanding or attached nursing home and because of its location in the hillside, CDH had to ensure the site would allow for future growth. 

Cook Medical Center (CMC) in Adel, Ga., is also a replacement hospital CDH is designing. CMC will have eight-inpatient med surg beds that will also feature an ambulatory surgical center with three operating rooms and a GI/Bronch endoscopy suite. The center will also include a 12-bed geriatric/psychiatric unit, and the Cook Senior Living Center, a 95-bed nursing home facility.

CMC will have outpatient ancillary services including medical imaging, laboratory, respiratory therapy, pharmacy, behavioral health services and physical, occupational and speech therapy. Cook Family Wellness Center and Cook Primary Care will also relocate to the new facility. 

TIFT Regional Health System owns CMC and has worked hard to replace the facility to be a positive addition to the community, Lindeman says. “The state of rural healthcare anywhere in America, but especially in southern Georgia has been an area of concern,” she notes. “We are excited to see how this approach to rural healthcare can be a positive influence. Hopefully, [it will be] a successful model for healthcare in rural communities to bring healthcare closer to the areas that are underserved and to those who don’t have access close to home.”

CDH is about 50 percent completed with the design and expects construction to begin in late spring. “All material choices are made based on making sure we have smooth transitions and durable flooring to ensure we are making the safest holistic and healing environment,” Lindeman says. “All of that heavily influences how we design the environment for the patients and staff.”

Eye for Design

CDH has seen an increase in clients requesting it repurpose existing buildings. “Especially when the economy wasn’t doing quite well, this was prevalent a few years back,” Mackey says. “It depends on the location, available property in the area and how well the building could meet their needs. We have done a number of assessments on these types of building and if it looks to be a viable option to repurpose for whatever they want to put in there we will do it.”

For example, CDH repurposed a former motorcycle shop in Dawsonville, Ga., that featured a mezzanine into a medical office and urgent care center. “We had challenges with this structure, but it turned out very well and to see the transition from one type of building to another use is pretty amazing,” Mackey notes. “We are quite adept at repurposing existing facilities and converting them into a new use.”

In addition to repurposing and designing facilities like Mountain Lakes Medical Center and CMC, which Lindeman says are on the smaller side, CDH has also taken on larger replacement hospital projects like the WellStar Paulding Hospital Replacement Campus, which completed construction in 2014 and the last phase of buildouts this past summer. “Our approach is completely different than doing a small, rural hospital like CMC,” she adds. “It’s an integrated process with the contractor and a BIM-coordinated effort where it was modeled and completely built electronically. All the trades built everything out in their warehouses and brought it together like a 3-D jigsaw puzzle. It was an incredible thing to watch, coordinate and see come together.”

Whether large or small projects, CDH says creating physical mockups can be invaluable. “We have done virtual mockups using the CAD programs, but we have actually mocked up patient rooms and work stations so the client can touch, feel and place elements and devices in the room to work best for their needs so we can make changes prior to constructing it,” Mackey says.

“We have done cardboard mockups to actual full-scale mockups using real material and equipment,” he continues. “We found that being able to convey a design to a client who doesn’t have construction experience helps translate the design to what it would actually become in reality.”

Empowering the Youth

CDH rebranded last year when it celebrated its 40th anniversary. “We changed our logo slightly to be more forward-thinking,” Mackey explains. “Our tagline is, ‘Imagine More.’ We want to be in business another 40 years at least and to do so we need the next generation coming out of school and taking advantage of their knowledge in technology and the latest trends in materials and techniques.”

The company mentors its newcomers to allow them to understand the more practical aspects of architecture and real world techniques. “We empower them to step up and take leadership roles with some of the senior leadership or principals to take more active roles and not only get to sit at a desk,” Lindeman says. “We collaborate and put them in more engaging roles so they can participate in how we want to approach our design or do cross-pollination between studios.

“We are synergizing and engaging internally with the staff so they get taken to meetings, site visits and are engaged early and active rather than sitting at a desk,” she continues. “The younger team members react positively to this and we are starting to see them grow very quickly because they enjoy having early engagement and involvement.”

CDH prides itself on having a family atmosphere where the principals and owners are approachable. “We look after one another and have each other’s backs,” Mackey says. “There are no predetermined egos that we have over others that prevent us from accomplishing the project as we see to be best fit. We are continually improving the firm and encourage all age participation in a group that we call the Nexus Group. The group meets periodically to look at firm processes and initiatives as well as team building and morale. The senior leadership addresses it by making recommendations and positive changes to help foster and create an atmosphere where people come and want to work for us.”

Every other Friday, CDH holds a “wine and design” event for all employees, which gives them an opportunity to socialize and talk about projects from that week. “We have the project leader make a presentation on a project and we critique it and have fun that way,” Mackey adds. “We throw out ideas that the design team may not have thought about or confirm something they have.”

Moving forward, CDH plans to continue nurturing the firm’s next generation of leaders while expanding its footprint. The company is looking to broaden the healthcare arm of the firm into Florida and Alabama, and eventually nationwide. “We work out of a single office here in Marietta, but our church work has grown nationwide into Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Florida and places out west,” Mackey notes. “We are trying to do the same thing with our healthcare ion sectors.”

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