Health Care

Battle Creek VA Medical Center, Building 39, Battle Creek, Mich.

The Department of Veterans Affairs serves a 20-county area in western Michigan with an extensive medical center offering both inpatient and outpatient care. In 2009, a renovation project was completed on Building 39, which provides veterans with mental health care services. Wausau Windows and Wall Systems’ psychiatric windows were selected to maintain patient safety, promote wellness and maintain a historic visual profile, while updating the building’s energy efficiency.

“While patient safety remains a primary consideration in psychiatric applications, many health care facilities are seeking to create a more home-like and healing atmosphere with natural light and unrestricted views to the outside,” said Lisa May, Wausau’s health care market manager. “Windowless environments or openings with jail-like bars or heavy security screens can feel imposing and constricting, which may not be conducive to positive mental health.”

“Whether building a new hospital, renovating existing spaces, or leveraging ‘adaptive re-use’ of structures originally intended for another occupancy, window selection in areas accessible to psychiatric patients can be challenging,” May said.

Wausau’s structural engineering team has developed useful algorithms for analyzing system performance under high-impact loads, and a battery of tests confirm how well the window units withstand impact. The windows’ integral, between-glass blinds reduce the potential dangers of exposed cords and slats, while helping manage privacy and light.

For this project, Wausau’s psychiatric-grade windows invite natural light into every room. During Michigan’s freezing winter months, the units’ low-E glass, dual glazing and polyurethane thermal barrier keep patients comfortable in their rooms. The windows are AAMA HC40 rated, meeting the industry’s most stringent testing for wind loads; air infiltration, water and condensation resistance; and thermal performance.


The modern performance stands in stark contrast to the building’s original 1924 design, which featured steel sash, multipane windows that had been replaced during previous renovations with single-glazed aluminum units, explained Jeff Vliek, project team leader for glazing contractor Battle Creek Glass Works Inc.

Vliek collaborated with Wausau to customize its standard, 3 1/4-inch- (83-mm-) deep, psychiatric-grade window to replicate Building 39’s intended architectural style. For historic integrity, Wausau applied muntins to the windows’ exterior, helping achieve the original multipane appearance. Linetec painted the aluminum framing in a two-coat, 70 percent Kynar durable, low-maintenance finish. The color was specially blended to complement the steel frames that remained in the masonry and were reused during the renovation.

Vliek and his team installed 355 Wausau windows. “These are heavy, sturdy units. We typically installed five to eight units each day with a six-man crew. Patients occupied the building during renovation, and we worked closely with medical center staff to keep disturbances on the floor to a minimum.”

Now fully installed, the VA’s staff controls the windows’ ability to open and close. For safety, concealed hinges and tamper-resistant locks secure the opening during normal operating conditions. In the event of an emergency, the operable windows allow rescue personnel to enter the building or to open a series of units for rapid fresh air circulation.

Owner: Department of Veterans Affairs
Glazing contractor: Battle Creek Glass Works Inc., Battle Creek
Windows: Wausau Windows and Wall Systems, Wausau, Wis.,
Finishing: Linetec, Wausau,