Thursday, Dec 13 2012 05:36 PM

Houchin offers peek at its new blood bank

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    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Greg Gallion, president and CEO of Houchin Community Blood Bank. shows off the new 3,830-square-foot donor room while giving media tours at the new Houchin Community Blood Bank campus. Twenty-one donor chairs still need to be installed.

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    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Greg Gallion, president and CEO of Houchin Community Blood Bank, shows off the new 36,871-square-foot Houchin Community Blood Bank campus to media representatives in this file photo.

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    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Houchin Community Blood Bank's new campus is located at 11515 Bolthouse Drive.

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    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Dave Merritt, emergency coordinator for Western Kern County Amateur Emergency Radio Services, poses in the new Houchin Community Blood Bank. Houchin is supplying the new radios to be used during a communication emergency.

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BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer

Giving blood in Bakersfield will be a bit more glamorous in the New Year.

Donors will be able to recline under the rolling ceiling of Houchin Community Blood Bank's roughly $10 million, 42,000-square-foot new facility. The project broke ground in September 2011 off Buena Vista Road on five acres donated by Bolthouse Properties LLC.

Related Info


36,871 square feetSize of main building

2,600 square feetAmount of outdoor patio

550 square feetAvailable walk-in cooler and freezer space

34.9 feetHeight of ham radio tower for emergency communications

34,560 pintsAmount of blood donated in Kern County last year&dcTwo;

Source: Houchin Community Blood Bank

The doors opened Thursday morning for media tours and a "sneak peek" later in the day.

Greg Gallion, president and CEO of Houchin, said the building will give the blood bank room to grow, with the space to collect more pints of life-saving blood, house more mobile units and add more staff.

"It gives us the opportunity to position ourselves for the next 60 years," he said.

The new building will bring Houchin's services, including manufacturing and testing, under one roof. Currently the blood bank's operations are divided among four locations -- buildings on G and H streets and Truxtun Avenue as well as a separate office space on Truxtun.

Houchin's donation center on Truxtun Avenue will stay open after the new building is up and running, but operations from the other three locations will be moved to the new facility.

The blood bank has a staff of about 100 people and about 75 will work at the new building.

The CEO led reporters through the building's pristine rooms Monday as workers applied bright paint to a wall and washed windows. The building was unfurnished save for a number of massive flat-screen televisions hanging in the lobby, conference rooms and administrative offices.

Greg Frank, architect from Skarphol Associates, which handled the interior design of the building, said the architects aimed for modern and minimalist themes incorporating some natural materials. The open space and the free-flowing, curving ceiling in the donor room could be calming for donors, he said.

Fountains and reflecting pools are planned for the facility's outdoor landscaping. A glass-walled playroom for children sits between the donation room and the spacious donor canteen, where green shapes are suspended from the ceiling.

Accent walls painted in shades such as "turbulent seas" blue and tinted squares on the carpet also added patches of color to the building.

Aside from the aesthetic elements, the building offers many practical benefits. Gallion said he didn't know exactly how much more blood and other products the new facility can store, but said it will be a "substantial" increase from Houchin's previous capacity.

"We have really struggled. For example during 9/11, we had to quit collecting blood because we had nowhere else to put it, we had no more storage devices," he said. "Fortunately, this we feel will position us to respond to any emergency disaster."

The building also has an emergency preparedness side with radio equipment and a tower that could allow the blood bank to quickly communicate how much blood is available after a disaster such as an earthquake.

The new digs will also bring Houchin's mobile units under one roof, with a 7,020-square-foot "bus barn." Vehicles have been vandalized at Houchin's other locations so the garage offers more protection and room for additional mobile resources in the future, Gallion said.

Pam Hornbuckle, who is on the capital campaign committee, said the campaign relied on individual donors and got a "wonderful" response.

"Just about everybody we approached was very willing to contribute in some way or another," Hornbuckle said.

The campaign isn't over yet. Hornbuckle said donations will be collected for bricks, plaques, fountains and benches.

The building is expected to open early next year.

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