The new Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office is a 20,890-square-foot, state-of-the-art structure built as part of the existing Washoe County Complex. The Office plays a critical role in investigating unexpected and unexplained deaths. The Office serves the people of Washoe County in addition to 18 other counties across northern Nevada and northern California. The ME team performs approximately 1,000 body exams (autopsies and external examinations) per year with over 4,150 deaths reported to the Office in 2016. They have 15 full-time staff, 10 part-time investigators and three full time doctors.
The existing facility was built in 1959, renovated in 2003 and did not offer adequate room for expansion to support the regions the ME serves. With increases in population, the number of deaths has increased, and the death rate has been increasing as well. The ME’s staff was squeezed in to tight quarters, lacked ventilation and did not have basic conveniences required to support their work like conference, laundry and shower facilities. Trios of workers were sharing small cubicles. Building service equipment were well past their service dates. Technological advances in communication and collaboration with other agencies could not be properly implemented. They also lacked reliable security and privacy for entry and exit with the deceased, were missing a comfortable place for families to receive information and grieve, and had little parking for visitors.
Now standing on E. 9th Street, part of the Washoe County Administrative Complex, the Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office is a stark contrast to the existing facility. It is a single-story CMU and steel building with colorful metal paneling and welcoming xeriscaping. The offices are open, airy and warmly lit by eye-catching fixtures. Light-sensing skylights bring in natural lighting that reflects off high, open ceilings with exposed painted utilities. The colors are soothing, with touches of nature’s brightest green on fabrics and features and the warmth of wood paneling on curvaceous soffits and accent walls. It has the infrastructure and technology to bring modern autopsy capacities to the region and the interior design elements needed to create productive work environment for the ME team – one that is also respectful of the deceased and their families.
Van Woert Bigotii Architecture; McClaren, Wilson & Lawrie Inc. Architecture
ENR Southwest Contractor Award of Merit