In April 2022, Lloyd Rader exited his job as director of design for Novant Health. The healthcare network consists of more than 1,600 physicians and 29,000 employees providing care at nearly 700 locations, including 15 hospitals and hundreds of outpatient facilities and physician clinics.
His instrumental five-plus years with the company saw considerable success, designing top community hospitals, clinics, and acute facilities and incorporating sustainability in many of the projects. A workhorse throughout his 20-plus-year career, the University of Florida graduate regularly completed between 300 to 400 projects a year with the Novant Health team.
“Some projects may just involve furniture and paint, and others are building brand-new hospitals, and then there’s everything in between,” he says. “We do about $350 million of work a year.”
Because his father owned a construction company, Rader regularly hung out on job sites from an early age. Later, a demonstrated excellence in both art and math only intensified his interest in the field. “It just made sense to go into architecture,” Rader explains. “I’ve always enjoyed building things. If I would get a new bicycle, the first thing I would do is tear it apart and to find a better way to rebuild it.”
While his career journey to architecture surprised no one, his path to health care had more of a different track.
“I was the typical rambunctious boy and from when I was 7 to 23, I went to the emergency room at least once a year, whether it was a broken nose, a broken hand or something else,” Rader recounts. “All of those visits to the hospital, I just didn’t like them—didn’t like the way they looked, didn’t like the way they smelled, and didn’t like the experience at all.”
With his wife receiving a lung cancer diagnosis in 2006, and the following year seeing his dad battle brain cancer, Rader once again spent a lot of time in hospital as both a husband and son. “It was during those experiences that I realized there was a better way for these environments to be helpful,” he recalls. “It’s not always dealing with the ailment. There’s a psychology side to it, there’s a wayfinding side, and this was something I felt I wanted to focus on.”
Rader set out to find an architecture job focused on healthcare and landed at HDR, spending a decade doing what he had hoped, working both in the US and internationally.
“The part I was missing was I wasn’t able to work on a project that helped my own community,” he shares. So, when the director of design position at Novant Health became available in 2016, Rader recognized this opportunity as a way of fulfilling that desire, knowing he could make a bigger difference. And he certainly has.
One notable project is the $93 million, 263,000-square foot Novant Health Heart & Vascular Institute and Cancer Institute facility in Charlotte, North Carolina. Completed in 2020, it provides oncology and cardiology patients a new facility with an integrated approach. As part of the project, he designed a new, seven-story outpatient facility immediately adjacent to Presbyterian Medical Center. This maintained connectivity to the main hospital using existing over-street bridges and a new connector.
“We didn’t want to build an old building that was new, and we also didn’t want to put something that would stick out like a sore thumb among the older brick buildings on campus, so we married the two, keeping some of the language of the old architecture elements combined with modern design and it turned out to be a beautiful building,” he says.
Another favorite project is the $180 million Ballantyne Medical Center, a 48-bed, 168,000-square-foot hospital. The project broke ground in the spring of 2021 and looks to open in the summer of 2023.
“We look out 50 to 100 years to what a community hospital campus will look like and then we dial back to day one,” he explains. “I started with the real estate team on how much land we needed to buy and worked with our strategic leadership team to determine the services we would offer to develop what the program needed to be. Once we had these elements identified, we put together the certificate of need. The good thing is we had another community hospital that had been in operation for a year, so we could look at lessons learned and apply it to the design for the Ballantyne Medical Center.”
Novant Health also is working on the new 66-bed Scotts Hill Community Hospital in Wilmington, with Rodgers Builders serving as contractors and the 186,000-square-foot Steele Creek Medical Center, a $179 million project in Charlotte scheduled to open in 2025. That’s slated to be a LEED-Silver certified building, the first for Novant Health.
During the last few years, Rader concluded that it was time to move on, knowing he had accomplished a great deal in his role. “I’ve never been the kind of person to take care of me, and I just felt it was time to take care of myself and it wasn’t an easy decision to leave,” he shares, noting that while it was painful to walk away, he’s proud of his time there. “The company is in the process of being game changers in the healthcare sector, and I was a part of all that.”