Methodist University Hospital Expansion Reaches Major Milestone with Completion of New Shorb Tower
A Project with Purpose: Stunning New Shorb Tower Enhances Patient Care at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis
Heralded as the most advanced tertiary care facility in the Midsouth region, the new Shorb Tower at Methodist University Hospital (MUH) is a sight to behold.
Located in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, the nine-story structure features an aesthetically striking exterior facade comprised of colorful metal panels and sleek glass as well as stone and stucco. This 450,000-square-foot addition was completed in April and is part of a $275 million effort to renovate and expand MUH, the flagship hospital of the Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (MLH) regional system.
Beyond its visual impact, the Shorb Tower offers convenient access to state-of-the-art technology and advanced transplant, cardiology, blood and marrow transplant, and oncology services. Named in honor of retired MLH President and CEO Gary Shorb, the facility consolidates both inpatient and outpatient programs into a centralized area to increase efficiency for medical staff and caregivers while improving health care experiences for patients, families and visitors.
An Integrated Project Team
Turner Construction Company (Turner) was selected to lead the expansion and renovation of MUH from its regional office in Memphis. The firm possesses significant expertise in health care construction on an international scale, and has partnered with MUH on multiple other occasions.
“Being part of the Methodist University Hospital expansion project has been very rewarding for our team,” says Mark Christianson, a Senior Project Manager for Turner. “Once we completed construction of the Shorb Tower and assisted the hospital staff with occupying this facility, we got to see their joy and excitement. Then as the staff started to care for the patients and we saw all the healing that takes place, the purpose of the project was realized – and you can’t help but feel grateful to have been part of it.”
Under an integrated project delivery (IPD) approach, Turner has worked closely with lead design firm HKS, Inc., another company that participates in stand-out health care projects worldwide.
Because the IPD model relies on a collaborative, value-based process to optimize project performance, project officials had the opportunity to work through potential issues before construction began, helping to eliminate possible waste and risk.
“This process is being used more commonly these days. It’s a very good way to work efficiently and limit the changes that happen inevitably on projects,” says Teresa Hurd, a Principal at HKS and the MUH Project Architect.
Two Memphis-based firms, Self+Tucker Architects and archimania, also lent their expertise to HKS during design phases. “A project of this scale often requires the horsepower of a national firm. When possible, it’s also important to partner with local firms to gain a deeper understanding of the region and the client’s history,” says Rachel Knox, Associate Principal at HKS.
Other key project partners include Bernhard TME, which is providing MEP engineering services, and Allen & Hoshall, the project’s structural and civil engineer.
A Campus-Wide Modernization Plan
As the principal teaching hospital for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, MUH is being modernized to reflect a continued commitment to clinical excellence, research and innovation. The Shorb Tower, which took approximately 30 months to build, represents a significant milestone to improving various areas of the medical campus.
The structural steel tower, which spans Eastmoreland Avenue, is heavily reinforced due to its location in a Seismic Design Category D zone. Another factor increasing the project’s complexity: the new tower connects to the existing hospital at four levels, which required overbuild construction above the existing Emergency Department.
“The new structure ties into the existing steel structure of the Emergency Department, intensive care unit and interventional radiology unit,” Christianson elaborates. “We constructed a new corridor through the existing pharmacy and built a new 10-story elevator/stair tower between the hospital’s main entrance and the emergency entrance. We also extended the trauma elevator tower, which required us to work directly outside of the neurosurgery operating rooms. In addition, our team facilitated major tie-ins and switchovers of utility services that feed into the existing hospital.”
The master-planned improvements also include construction of a 660-space parking garage. Completed in early 2017, this multi-level parking plaza gives direct access into the Shorb Tower.
Currently, Turner is renovating approximately 94,000 square feet of existing patient and operating rooms. Once this phase is finalized in mid-2020, construction team members will demolish the existing Crews Wing located on the corner of Union Avenue and South Bellevue. According to MUH officials, removal of this older structure will provide room for an open green space area and shift the primary entrance of the hospital to provide better visibility and wayfinding for patients and visitors.
According to Christianson, one of the biggest project challenges is keeping the hospital operational during construction while minimizing impacts to patient care. “We meet weekly with the heads of the hospital departments, carefully coordinating work activities 60 to 90 days out to avoid impacting their operations,” he notes. “When we work near the more critical areas of the hospital, we have daily huddles with the department heads. Effective communication is key to helping them understand upcoming activities so they can plan accordingly.” The contractor also stays flexible enough to stop work when last-minute medical procedures are scheduled.
A variety of innovative technologies have been utilized throughout the project. Examples include a Matterport 3-D camera to scan existing conditions and offsite mockups into a cloud-based platform, 4-D modeling to coordinate material handling with two tower cranes, and laser scanning to evaluate existing conditions more quickly and precisely. For instance, in the Shorb Tower all of the patient bathroom floors were laser scanned to ensure they are perfectly sloped so that no water will pool. This method took the scanning process from six to 10 minutes per room down to just 24 seconds, allowing the contractor to deliver a quality product in minimum time.
A Sensible, Standardized Design
According to the design team, the tower’s interior is laid out sensibly to enhance operational efficiencies. “Before design started, we spent quite a bit of time in each of the departments to better understand their needs. We relied on mockups pretty heavily as one of our evaluation tools, bringing in medical professionals to help them visualize and offer feedback on the new space,” Knox says.
Project plans included the construction of standardized support areas between the inpatient units. These glassed-in “team rooms” can be used by medical staff for work and private consultation while still allowing them to remain near the patients they serve.
In addition, the Shorb Tower project features universally sized patient rooms with standardized equipment and furniture. Designers specified a similar floorplan for each level of the structure, providing long-term flexibility if a department’s needs change in the future.
Another big focus was wayfinding. “We created a very distinct public wayfinding path that gets you from the new parking garage to the registration desk, and then to wherever your destination might be,” Hurd says. She notes that the main public concourse is a primary component of the wayfinding strategy, along with daylighting elements throughout the structure and large graphics and distinct floor tile at the elevator towers. “Our wayfinding approach became a defining concept of the exterior design,” she adds. “For instance, you can see the strong gesture of the public concourse coming across the front of the building. Likewise, we were very deliberate with the exterior signage, aligning the various public entrances while also keeping them distinct.”
One Future Goal: LEED Certification
Beyond providing exceptional patient care, the Shorb Tower is designed to be energy efficient. Noteworthy examples of energy efficiency include LED lighting throughout the facility as well as dimmable and motion-detecting lights in the staff areas. Electrochromic dynamic glass was used on all exterior windows – including patient rooms – to help improve occupancy comfort levels, regulate indoor temperatures more effectively and reduce the building’s carbon footprint.
“The electrochromic vision glass dims automatically in relation to the amount of sun exposure. In addition to optimizing daylight exposure, this innovative technology reduces glare and heat infiltration,” Hurd says. She adds that facility combats the heat island effect through the integration of roof gardens and a highly reflective white TPO roof system.
Recycled content and regionally sourced materials are also major components of this project. Recycled content elements include reinforcing bars, Class C fly ash in the concrete, between-the-glass blinds, wood doors, fire-treated wood and corner guards. Some examples of regionally sourced materials are concrete, steel, composite metal wall panels, floor and ceiling tiles, millwork, curtainwall elements and the roofing membrane.
At the time of reporting, the Shorb Tower was pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The goal is to achieve at least LEED Silver status; the USGBC should make its decision sometime this fall.