New Construction Awards 2005: ‘Decentralized’ Design

Sept. 30, 2005
Addition to Existing Facility Winner: South Tower Addition, William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, MI

In the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, MI, patients admitted to William Beaumont Hospital receive both technologically advanced healthcare and the traditional warmth of a community health provider.

Since admitting its first patients in 1955, the hospital has grown from 238 beds to 1,061, with a recent new addition of 656,000 square feet to the facility’s more than 1 million square feet of space.

The hospital’s special blend of high-tech care and personal attention has steadily increased demand for its serv­ices as well. To address this ongoing need, the hospital has built continuously over the past 20 years, which still outstripped capacity by the end of the 20th century. “We realized it was time for us to take a critical look at our central tower, the core of our hospital,” says John Labriola, senior vice president and hospital director. “We were able to make architectural changes, but structurally, we weren’t able to do as much.”

Hospital officials determined they needed a new patient tower. Planning and design started in 2000, with a January 2001 groundbreaking. The $227-million project had a $183-million construction budget, some of it offset by major philanthropic contributions. At times, the massive project involved more than 300 trades working side by side on-site.

“The biggest single challenge was the sheer size of the project,” says Project Manager Jennifer Macks of Barton Malow Co., Southfield, MI. “It’s enormous. The average floor plate is 80,000 square feet. The running joke, ‘It’s a really big building,’ became the mantra of the team.”

Besides hospital officials and construction manager Barton Malow, the project’s lead team consisted of program manager Optim of Royal Oak, MI, the fully owned construction program management subsidiary of William Beaumont Hospitals; and architect/engineer of record HarleyEllis of Southfield, MI. Two associate architects/consultants assisted HarleyEllis: Hellmuth Obata + Kassabaum (HOK) of St. Louis on the exterior and diagnostic and therapeutic floors, and Watkins Hamilton Ross of Houston on the patient floors.

The team set a completion goal of September 2004 - just in time for Beaumont’s 50th anniversary celebration in January 2005. Goal accomplished. “We were on time and on budget,” says Rick Hall, principal-in-charge at HarleyEllis. “There were changes along the way. Some of the user departments changed. Some of the places that weren’t initially slated to be finished were finished out by the end of the project.”

Besides meeting the proposed completion date on budget, the construction team had another goal: to create a healthcare space that de-stressed hospitalization to the greatest degree possible while providing the highest level of medical technology and care. The new 8-floor South Tower features a “decentralized” design that brings nurses and supplies closer to patients and expands inpatient and surgical facilities. This new healing environment has 432 beds in private and semi-private rooms. Two private rooms and two semi-private rooms are clustered around individual “nursing pods” - a set-up that decreases staff travel distances and allows the nursing staff to have electronic charting, cabinets, supplies, and medications close at hand. Rather than a paging system, the nurse-call system uses low-frequency cell phones, resulting in quicker response times and quieter surroundings. “We focused on increased patient comfort,” Hall says. “The rooms are much larger than the older rooms. And they are more hospitality-like in style.”

The tower also houses the orthopedic, pediatric, OB/GYN, neuroscience, and oncology units, as well as specialized surgical operating rooms. The first-floor concourse includes a Starbucks, a mother/baby boutique, a gift shop, and a hospital-run food court with a dining area that seats 150.

The hospital also employs 8,000 on the campus. Combine that with patient and visitor counts, and an estimated 13,000 to 15,000 individuals use the facility on any given day. Many of them are there for long periods of time, and appreciate modern conveniences and facilities to lessen the wait time and the often-accompanying stress.

“Hospitals are similar to airports,” explains John Krolicki, director of facilities development for program manager Optim. “Lots of people are waiting, especially if someone is having surgery.”

On the sixth floor, visitors, patients, and caregivers can seek respite in a day-lit, privately funded garden: the 100- by 80-foot Debra Saber-Salisbury Memorial Garden. In addition to providing personal meditation spaces, the garden features fabricated trees and hedges with a natural appearance, as well as live plantings flanking an artificial-grass court lit by a full vaulted skylight. It is in these simple ways that the team brought an unusual and attractive element to the site, while addressing indoor air quality, maintenance, and structural load concerns. Landscape Architect Grissim Metz Andriese, Northville, MI, designed the space.

Grissim Metz Andriese also worked with Beaumont’s childcare staff to create a 4,000-square-foot indoor pediatric garden that features stylized flowers, topiary walls lined with flat-screen TVs, whimsical furniture, and a bouncy floor made from recycled tires.

Beaumont records more than 52,000 surgeries each year, so the team paid strict attention to the details of surgical areas, from waiting rooms and pre-operative suites to the operating rooms (ORs) themselves. Private pre-op suites allow families to stay with patients. A skylit waiting room has a playroom and wireless computer access. In the ORs, flat- panel monitors, suspended from ceiling booms, project real-time images from surgical microscopes and endoscopic cameras. Medical service columns allow equipment and outlets to be located according to actual use.

The hospital’s innovative design and construction approach worked. Caregivers now have the tools of their trades at hand and can spend more time with patients - thanks to new layouts. Patients have reported that the new rooms are quieter and more comfortable. And the hospital staff knows they could implement a major addition without interrupting daily operations at the busy campus.

“The building project was a large one and expensive one,” Labriola says. “It was the single largest project we have ever done. We put everything we wanted to correct and improve into one building project that could last another 50 years.”

Robin Suttell ([email protected]), based in Cleveland, is contributing editor at Buildings magazine.

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