Community Architecture

Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County

Project Goal

The Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County (CAC) desired to bring several agencies together in one location so the victims of child abuse and their families would only have to tell their story once. A centralized, multidisciplinary approach can help those affected navigate the overwhelming maze of services and court processes. Most importantly, a single location is culturally and developmentally sensitive to each child and family.

 

Provide a comprehensive, culturally competent, multidisciplinary team response to report child abuse in a dedicated, child-focused setting

Child Advocacy Center Of Sedgwick County Case Study By WDM Architects 1

CAC: Bringing Multiple Agencies Under One Roof

Law Enforcement, Medical Experts and Advocacy at CAC

  • Exploited and Missing Children Unit
  • Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office
  • Wichita Police Department
  • Kansas Department for Children and Families
  • Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC)
  • Homeland Security
  • District Attorney — 18th District
  • Ascension Via Christi
  • Wesley Medical Center
  • KU Wichita Pediatrics
  • ICT.SOS
  • And others

Peer Research

Early in the project, WDM, CAC Board members and Diana Schunn, CAC Executive Director, developed a programming strategy to visit peer organizations to see first-hand best practice learnings.

One approach some CAC organizations were using to good effect was co-locating different agencies within the same building. This integrated team model including advocacy staff, police investigators, legal counsel, health care and therapists, etc., offered an incredibly supportive and convenient means of communicating with each other and providing services to clients. This approach became the key driver in the planning process. Peer facilities that operated with a co-location model were the ones chosen for peer tours.

Peer Facilities Toured

  • Plano, Texas (Nov. 2010)
  • Houston, Texas (Nov. 2010)
  • Austin, Texas (Nov. 2010)
  • Omaha, Nebraska (Aug. 2011)

Architectural Programming

In spring of 2011, WDM met with CAC to begin programming for CAC’s new facility.

This 84-page document identified needs for a minimum footprint of 35,000 s.f. distributed over 112 rooms of various sizes for different uses. Space allocation was divided into four distinct areas within the facility:

  1. Child and Family
  2. Education and Training
  3. Advocacy
  4. Investigations and Justice

In June 2011, the Program was presented to CAC.

1. Research:

WDM and CAC together toured their offices across Wichita. Then, they traveled to peer facilities in Texas and Nebraska to evaluate what works well, and importantly, what doesn’t work.

2. Discovery:

WDM conducted an inventory of CAC’s existing space and furniture, room by room, workspace by workspace. Details were compiled into a document, or program. Additionally, staff interviews were conducted to inquire how people do their jobs and what equipment they need.

3. Programming:

Interior designers then sketched diagrams to explore work flows and adjacencies that could boost productivity, employee engagement, and collaboration.

4. Refinement:

WDM presented space planning options to CAC for leadership input and approval.

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Site Selection

The next step was site selection. When a site had the potential of meeting CAC’s requirements, WDM explored fitting the programming criteria to the location.

 

CAC Design Criteria

  • Child-friendly environment (Toddler to Teen)
  • Separate entries & parking for different groups: 1) Victims & families, 2) Law enforcement & suspects and 3)
  • Training & outside groups
  • High security and sound-proofing between groups and within interview areas
  • Surrounding outdoor play area

 

An early contender: Commerce Building

The Commerce building at Douglas and Topeka provided ample floorspace, but did not have an outside playground. Creating a separate entrance for children and offenders was possible, but not optimum. The team continued to search for a suitable site.

Riverside Hospital Office Park

The Riverside location was the next viable site. WDM produced sketches of potential floorplans. Though there were provisions for separate entrances, overall it did not meet the criteria of bringing all departments “under one roof.” But the location’s biggest con was it simply did not have enough space.

“There was also this legend of a buried bulldozer on the site,” states Stan Landwehr, WDM principal. Locating and removing large equipment buried on the property would complicate any plans for additions.

The shuttered Lincoln Elementary School was next to be considered. It had the necessary square footage, so in September of 2013, the decision was made to move forward with the site.

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Space Planning

The school’s basic layout wasn’t conducive to CAC’s needs. It was constructed in three different phases between the 1930s and 2000s. The 2-story 1930s building was at a different elevation than the 1970s addition, so a ramp had been installed in the connecting hallway.

 

Challenge Accepted

Through a very concerted space planning effort, large classroom spaces were reconfigured into multiple offices. The old gymnasium was converted into two conference rooms and the library was transformed into private medical and psychological treatment areas.

Renovations needed for Lincoln School

  • Dividing up large classroom spaces into offices

  • All new finishes

  • Addition of a new drive-up canopy

  • Update or replace mechanical systems

  • New electrical distribution and lighting

  • Elevator addition

  • Exterior Lintel repair

  • New parking lots and vehicular circulation

  • Secure playground with new equipment

  • Landscaping

  • Original, curved library desk was moved near the entry and renovated for a reception desk.

  • Wall, in pink, was demolished leaving 2 support pillars to open up the area for reception and waiting areas.

Renovations Continued

Since CAC was renovating an existing facility, there was no groundbreaking event to kick off construction. Instead, a “wall-bashing” event was held to demolish a curved wall of CMU block adjacent to the entry vestibule. Attendees were given sledgehammers and safety glasses and took turns demolishing portions of the existing wall.

The ladies of CAC “were very enthusiastic,” laughs Landwehr, “We had to focus on certain areas of the wall or we would have removed too much of the existing structure.”

The entry now retains vestiges of the curved wall with two support pillars and a decorative header near the ceiling. Painted bright orange, it adds visual interest.

The sledgehammer from the ceremonial wall bashing holds a place of honor on a ledge above the chalkboards in Schunn’s office. The 1930’s chalkboards are installed on pivoting doors that open onto the children’s coat closets. This was one of many historic details retained in the renovation for CAC.

The school’s curved Library Desk was moved and re-purposed for the reception desk. Glass blocks were removed and new quartz countertops were installed.

WDM Interiors had the idea to cover the exterior of the desk with mosaic tile. “We needed something that would cover a curved surface,” states Angi Womeldorff, WDM interior designer. “So we used these teeny, little tiles in a fun, gradient pattern.”

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Finish Selections

Aesthetically connecting the three phases of the building required finding, and then emphasizing, commonality between them, while still maintaining each area’s individual character. WDM’s interior designers used a paint color to unite the divergent spaces. Then, each agency’s area has their own distinctive accents and flooring as a visual cue for visitors.

 

“When I first saw that green, I thought I would hate it — having entire walls painted such a bright color would be too much. We just had to trust them. Then the carpeting brought it all together. Everyone remarks on how warm and welcoming it is.” — Diana Schunn, CAC Executive Director

The curved header from the demolished wall and the circular reception desk set a theme in the reception area for children and families. WDM used that circular theme in creating curved flooring transitions from walk-off carpet to carpet tiles. Additionally, WDM created a bright, sunny focal point of a recessed circular niche with a built-in bench.

“The bright pops of color make the area seem playful and we wanted to do anything we could to alleviate stress for the kids that had to be there,” says Womeldorff.

The carpet tiles’ blue and green pattern was inspired by piano keys and was purposefully whimsical, wrapping around the core of medical services.

“Something really special,” comments Womeldorff, “are the custom display cases throughout the facility for ceramic tiles painted by children as part of their therapy.” The displays can be updated because the tiles are attached with velcro strips. “They were really simple, but sometimes even the simple things require a lot of thought,” she says.

Monumental Entry for Children and their Families

CAC needed separate entries for public training, child victims and their families and the police and suspects. WDM designed the facility to have not only separate entries on opposite sides of the building, there are entirely different street addresses, one on Topeka and one on Emporia.

Shortly after choosing Lincoln Elementary as their location, in December 2013 CAC asked WDM to design a child-friendly, whimsical canopy for the main entrance for children and families. They wanted a significant visual cue to the entry that could also offer weather protection for car drop-offs.

In January, WDM presented several canopy drafts for the committee members’ input. Consensus was to further investigate options that were less boxy; possibly using columns, or other traditional elements while presenting a child-friendly, homey, softer image.

WDM went back to the drawing board and created a design with a whimsical circle.

An entry vestibule was added to the training area’s point-of-entry. The auditorium was designed as a flexible space that can be divided by a folding partition.

 

Design iterations to Construction:

Exterior Work

WDM investigated the condition of the roof at CAC’s request and recommended that the 2-story 1930s building be reroofed. The 1970s addition was very patchy and WDM recommended it to be reroofed, too. The 2000 addition was judged to be okay for another 5-10 years with minimal spot patching.

The exterior lintel and masonry on the second floor north west corner of the 1930s building was failing and would be repaired before reroofing.

A Place To Play

CAC liked the Lincoln Elementary location because it could offer a nice place for a playground accessible to the Children and Families area. The school’s footprint is shaped like a horseshoe, and the playground is protectively tucked towards the center. Child clients and their families access the secure area to alleviate stress or pass the time waiting between appointments.

WDM designed the fenced-in playground to have artificial turf, curved paths, four-square, climbing equipment, fabric sail-type shades and seating for watchful parents. Adequate screening was provided to keep suspects entering the law enforcement side from seeing kids in the play area.

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Left Image: Rendering of site elevation • Right Image: Site plan with protected playground

Measure of Success

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Project Overview

Location:

1211 S. Emporia and 1210 S. Topeka, Wichita, KS 67201

Area:

41,797 s.f.

Cost:

$7M

Start:

2010

Completion:

2016

Team Involved:

Principal-in-Charge: Stan Landwehr, AIA Project Architect: Matt Schindler, AIA Project Manager: Luke Scott, AIA Interior Designer: Angi Womeldorff, IIDA, NCIDQ Renderings: Jason Harlan Structural Engineering: Mauler Engineering MEP Engineering: Basis Consulting Engineers Civil Engineering & Survey: KE Miller GC: Farha Construction

Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County Portfolio Project

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