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Owensboro Health Regional Hospital

Landscape Performance Benefits


  • Manages 83% of stormwater onsite annually, or 177,016,500 gallons, equivalent to 268 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • Provides habitat for 33 bird species and 11 mammal species as observed by natural environment management experts. 25 of these were not observed when the site was an agricultural field.
  • Sequesters approximately 35,260 lbs of atmospheric carbon annually in over 35,000 newly-planted trees. The tree canopies also intercept 376,000 gallons of stormwater runoff annually.
  • Reduces atmospheric carbon by 9,060 lbs annually due to sequestration and avoidance provided by the green roofs.


  • Increases visual engagement with nature and wildlife from patient room windows in an estimated 90% of the patient population as reported by interviewed nurses.
  • Increases staff satisfaction and sense of pride about their work environment in 100% of interviewed staff members, who described the campus environment as “peaceful” and “beautiful”.
  • Provides a significant level of restorativeness for hospital patients and staff, achieving a GATE rating of 7.3 for the Dining Plaza and Commemorative Garden, 8.3 for the Main Courtyard, and 7.3 for the Dry River Rain Garden, based on a 1-10 scale.
  • Encourages users’ engagement with nature, achieving a GATE rating of 9.5 for the Dining Plaza and Commemorative Garden, 9.3 for the Main Courtyard, and 9.0 for the Dry River Garden, based on a 1-10 scale.
  • Creates a sense of “being away” in the main garden spaces, achieving a GATE score of 8.5 for the Dining Plaza and Commemorative Garden, and 8.5 for the Main Courtyard, based on a 1-10 scale.


  • Created 10 full-time jobs directly associated with the maintenance of the hospital’s exterior, landscape, and grounds. Approximately 1,000 jobs were associated with the whole project construction, 38 of which were directly associated with landscape construction.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    HGA Architects and Engineers

  • Project Type

    Healthcare facility

  • Former Land Use


  • Location

    1201 Pleasant Valley Road
    Owensboro, Kentucky 42303-0007
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  • Climate Zone

    Humid subtropical

  • Size

    157 acres

  • Budget

    $1.85 million

  • Completion Date


Previously a soybean field, the Owensboro Health Regional Hospital adopts a holistic design framework that integrates stormwater management, ecological reclamation, sustainable natural resource management, and human health. Large interconnected retention ponds and rain gardens effectively control flooding and manage stormwater runoff into the neighboring Ohio River. Internal courtyards, a series of roof gardens, and surrounding green spaces offer therapeutic views and draw attention away from less attractive views of adjacent industrial sites. The most distinct feature, a large healing pond, provides a soothing experience for people as they enter the hospital, look out the windows from the interior, or walk along the wellness trail. A Natural Resource Management Plan guides sustainably-focused landscape management practices including irrigation, mowing, and pest management. Owensboro Health Regional Hospital campus has been designated by Audubon International as the first Certified Signature Sanctuary in the state of Kentucky and is the first hospital in the world to achieve this certification.


The site’s location on a former soybean field proved to be the biggest design challenge. The design needed to create a healing environment for patients and their families on an essentially blank site surrounded by different forms of industry. Screening undesirable scenery and creating therapeutic views for patients and staff from within the hospital building was an important design goal. The flat field also created challenging stormwater management issues that demanded careful coordination between the civil engineer and landscape architect to integrate stormwater management into a holistic therapeutic environment. On a large hospital campus where many investments needed to be made, budget constraints made it difficult to satisfy local aesthetic expectations for a more highly-managed “golf course” aesthetic. 


Planting buffers were preserved along the edge of the campus to screen unpleasant views and noise and make the campus feel like a peaceful oasis. To manage water on the flat site, the building was raised up on a plinth through cut and fill processes. A series of retention basins with buffer zones infiltrate and pretreat stormwater runoff before draining into Yellow Creek. These basins were strategically developed in the areas where soil was extracted for construction so water could flow away from the hospital to the new basins. The basins, together with rain gardens, a green roof, and infiltration islands, make up the system of stormwater management practices. To further connect these features to the hospital building and make them accessible for human enjoyment, rehabilitation trails follow the flow of the water, looping from the building patios and entrances to the basins. To address local aesthetic preferences, the design successfully integrated meadow planting buffers that function ecologically and look more attractive than the crisp turf buffers which are more common to Kentucky. A smaller landscape budget meant the use of seeding and more natural plantings that would take more time to develop but would eventually fill in beautifully.

  • Natural and ornamental landscapes and ponds make up roughly 67% of the entire hospital campus.
  • An interconnected system of stormwater features, including 8 retention ponds of varying sizes, amounts to 15 total acres of surface water, mostly supplied by stormwater runoff. All building runoff is captured and directed to the Healing Pond, the pond nearest to the hospital, which serves as an irrigation reservoir that can be used to irrigate the large expanses of drought tolerant landscape, if needed. A detention pond at the southeast corner temporarily holds large amounts of runoff before slowly releasing it into Yellow Creek to reduce the potential of downstream flash flooding.
  • All stormwater water features were created as borrow pits, for which building construction fill was excavated and used to raise the building above the 500-year floodplain. 
  • 161 woody plant species, including over 1,000 flowering and fruit-bearing native trees and select hardwoods, were planted onsite.
  • 85 acres of prairie and grassland comprise a native plant palette. A variety of native grass in open areas and along pond banks helps to filter stormwater and prevent erosion. The vehicle use areas are planted with flowering tree species including apple, Japanese cherry, winter-flowering cherry, eastern redbud, and flowering dogwood. Flowering and fruit-bearing trees are dispersed throughout the property to provide aesthetic value and food for wildlife. 
  • The native plant communities require no pesticide use and form a 20-ft “no spray zone” which ensures that pesticides are absorbed before they reach water bodies. Regular water quality monitoring in the retention ponds and the nearby creek ensures landscape and water management practices are not degrading water quality.
  • Drought-tolerant species reduce the need for irrigation and maintenance. By using drip irrigation in designated zones, there is a reduction in irrigation time and evaporation rates compared to conventional watering methods like sprinklers. Sensors built into the landscape determine when irrigation is needed. 
  • A rooftop garden is only used for providing views and natural light into patient rooms, but has no physical access because of safety considerations. 
  • Bike racks and shower facilities encourage employees to leave their cars at home. Bus stops at the hospital make it easily accessible by public transportation.
  • Outdoor lighting uses dusk-till-dawn sensors that provide light during nighttime hours and shut off automatically as the sun rises.
  • Irrigation for the sustainable planting palette costs an estimated $34,200 annually, which is about 2/3 less expensive than a conventional design which would cost $102,600.
  • The site’s green roof saves an estimated $430 in annual energy costs as compared to a conventional dark roof.
  • The use of native plantings opened the door for new opportunities, for example, the project was the first hospital to be certified as an Audubon Signature Sanctuary.
  • The healing pond around the dining area was designed as a moon shape with the two ends being quite narrow and shallow. There have been algae issues in these narrow areas, which could perhaps have been avoided with a different pond shape or deeper depth throughout.
  • If possible, native plantings should be installed early in the construction process. That was the case at Owensboro, so by the end of construction many seeded plantings had filled out around the detention basins and were ready to function as needed.
  • The gardens are heavily used for viewing purposes from within the hospital, but they aren’t physically used extensively outside of lunch time, around 2-3 hours per day. There are complicated reasons behind this, such as safety and administrative regulations for patients and short break times for staff to travel long distances to the exterior. 

Paving: Semco Stone, Brick Markers USA
Rooftop plants: American Hydrotech, Inc.
Native Grasses and Forbs: Cardno JFNew Native Plant Nursery
Structural Materials: Semco Stone
Lighting: Bega, BK Lighting
Site Furniture: Landscape Forms, Country Casual

Project Team

Client: Owensboro Medical System
Landscape Architect, Architect, Structural Engineer, Electrical Engineer: HGA Architects and Engineers
Civil Engineer: Bryant Engineering, Inc.
Traffic and Parking: Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon, Inc.
Lighting Design: Catherine Hall Mettlach
Signage Design: Ex;it, Environmental Graphics
General Contractor: Turner Construction, Brentwood, TN
Landscape Contractor: Evergreen Lawn Care, Owensboro, KY
Roof Garden Contractor: Greenrise, Murfreesboro, TN
Native Seeding Consultant and Contractor: Cardno JFNEW
Water Feature Consultant and Contractor: Flair Fountains
Client Representative: KLMK Group, Richmond, Virginia
Public Art: Tom Corbin, William Kolok, Craig Kaviar, Brooke White
Photography: Halkin Photography

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect held integrated team meetings to discuss design, conducted construction administration and punchlists, prepared construction documents, and created a natural resource management plan. The multidisciplinary firm was the lead on the project and also served as the architect, structural engineer, electrical engineer, lighting designer, and horticulturist.


Stormwater management, Populations & species richness, Carbon sequestration & avoidance, Health & well-being, Scenic quality & views, Other social, Job creation, Trees, Bioretention, Native plants, Green roof, Efficient irrigation, Biodiversity, Health care, Mental wellness

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