Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

From the specialists pushing the envelope of new research to the nurses who check in on patients every night, it takes a team of dedicated professionals working as one to heal people. Likewise, it takes a team of highly skilled and motivated professionals to successfully complete a project with the scope of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Rising 23 stories above the city’s Streeterville neighborhood, this $915 million project will replace the existing Children’s Memorial Hospital, which is a nationally recognized leader in pediatric care and has been an icon in the Chicago community for more than 125 years.

Bruce Komiske, chief of new hospital design and construction, says the new facility will allow the hospital to continue providing the depth of services it has become known for while taking it to the cutting edge in terms of efficiency and patient comfort. “Children’s Memorial Hospital has an incredibly rich history, but the current facility in Lincoln Park had reached the point at which it had almost outlived its usefulness,” he says.

The hospital had the choice of building an entirely new facility or giving the existing building an extensive makeover. When it found the Streeterville site, though, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Komiske says the site puts the hospital next door to Prentice Women’s Hospital – the largest birthing center in Illinois – making it easy for critically ill newborns to be transferred to Lurie Children’s for care. The site also is close to essential academic and clinical partners such as the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

“The light went on with everyone and we said this is where the hospital needs to be,” Komiske says. “There was no question at last that that was the preferred site.” Work on the project began in 2004 and is expected to be completed in 2012. The project is named in honor of Ann Lurie, president of Lurie Investments and a philanthropist who has dedicated her time and money to numerous causes in healthcare, education, social services and the arts. A former critical care nurse at Children’s Memorial Hospital, Lurie donated $100 million to the new hospital project – the single largest charitable investment ever received by the hospital.

A New Standard

The 1.25 million-square-foot Lurie Children’s building will nearly double the space available to the hospital, and provide patients with world-class care in many specialties. Some of the leading-edge programs that will call Lurie Children’s home include the Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit and the world’s only program devoted to pediatric autonomic medicine, which studies and treats abnormalities in systems that regulate children’s breathing, heart rate and body temperature.

Komiske says the hospital features private rooms for all patients, and includes numerous other features aimed at making children as comfortable as possible during the healing process. For example, colored LED lights illuminate the exterior of the building at night, and Komiske says each night a patient will be chosen to select the colors and patterns for those lights for two hours. That child receives a commemorative photo of his or her light design. Also, the project team decided early on to enclose a mid-level roof to transform it into a 5,000-square-foot “sky garden” that includes a bamboo forest, water elements and benches made from trees planted for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

Chicago’s history and cultural heritage figures significantly throughout the building, Komiske explains. He says representatives from many of the city’s cultural institutions – including the Shedd Aquarium and Chicago History Museum – donated elements to decorate each floor of the building. In the lower lobby, for example, an ocean theme is enhanced with two life-sized whale sculptures donated by the Shedd Aquarium.

“Throughout the building, we have some great art provided by these great cultural institutions,” Komiske says. “Children’s Memorial has an incredible culture of engaging with its multiple communities, so that was a given when we started the design process and the construction process.”

Combined Expertise

That spirit of engagement and cooperation is mirrored by the project team that has worked to bring the Lurie Children’s project to life. Working under the construction manager at-risk model, a joint venture of Chicago’s Power Construction and Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction has taken the lead on the project. These companies have extensive experience in the healthcare sector, and they say the Lurie Children’s project represents some of the most complex and challenging work to be found in either company’s portfolio. Despite the challenges, the team has come together successfully to maintain a schedule that was six weeks early as of mid-July.

Whereas Mortenson is a nationally recognized contractor with projects stretching across the country, Power concentrates solely on the Chicago area. Bob Gallo, senior vice president and owner of Power Construction, says even though Power is smaller than Mortenson, the expertise it brought to the table in terms of building high-rises in Chicago complemented Mortenson’s technical proficiency. Sharing the responsibilities evenly, Gallo says the joint venture developed a hybrid approach to the project that combined the best elements of each company’s process.

“We really tried to find what was best for the project, whether it was how we produced the estimate manage safety, so much of what we did wasn’t a typical Mortenson approach or a typical Power approach,” Gallo says.

Robert Nartonis, senior vice president at Mortenson and project director for Lurie Children’s, says Mortenson has an established history of working with the hospital. The company came into the project at first to renovate the Lincoln Park campus, and has performed more than 65 individual projects there over the past eight years. Through this experience, Mortenson got to know the hospital’s culture inside and out.

“The benefit of that, obviously, was understanding Children’s Memorial’s preferences and performance expectations,” he says.

Nartonis says working with Power Construction was something that came naturally to Mortenson, and he attributes that to the similarities in culture shared by all stakeholders on the project. “We all believe that being collaborative and integrated results in greater value for Children’s Memorial and the rest of the project team,” he says.

Each facet of the project has been approached with a component team made up of representatives from all stakeholders. Nartonis says this allowed the team to address issues ranging from cost to constructability to design to functionality all at the same time. The project team even occupies the same space on the top floor of the hospital, making it even easier to collaborate and communicate.

“That co-location was key, and coordination meetings took on a new flavor,” Nartonis says. Rather than reporting sessions, these meetings became working sessions where critical decisions were made, he adds.

Gallo says the level of involvement on the project team has been a boon for the construction process. With so many different stakeholders having input over the project, the joint venture knew exactly what it was getting into before work got started. “That exposure gave us another level of accuracy we wouldn’t have been able to provide otherwise,” he says. “Children’s Memorial was so inclusive in the design process, all of these user groups have gone through the design several times.”

One of the most important voices in the collaborative process has been that of the hospital’s actual patients. The hospital’s Kids Advisory Board includes many children who have been long-time patients at Children’s Memorial, and all agree that their input has not only helped determine the practical aspects of the project, but also inspired the project team to do their best work.

“You cannot meet with these kids on the advisory council and hear their stories and meet with their parents and walk away without being more inspired about what you’re doing,” Gallo says.

One Team, One Goal

This level of collaboration has been crucial for a project of the scale and complexity of Lurie Children’s. Although the project is not the largest hospital project Power Construction has tackled, Gallo says, the fact that it contains so many different specialties under one roof and sits in a constricted urban setting makes it one of the more challenging ones. “There is nothing in healthcare that is more complex than what we’re doing here,” Gallo says.

That complexity begins with the building’s location. “Because the site is just 1.6 acres and the building’s footprint is about 90 percent of that, we implemented just-in-time deliveries,” Nartonis explains. Virtually no materials or components were stored on site, and many components were assembled off-site and delivered to the project. This meant working closely with the Chicago Department of Transportation to coordinate the logistics of moving materials through the city to accommodate the just-in-time scheduling without disrupting traffic around the city.

The structure itself also exhibits a level of complexity not often found in most projects. Because the hospital has been designed for maximum efficiency and maximum patient comfort, the building is very complex. Gallo explains that the bed tower required numerous cantilevers to support it over the building’s podium. For example, more than 5,000 tons is supported off the building’s east elevation by cantilevers. The large, open and inviting space in the building’s lower lobby is made possible by trusses rising 200 feet above the entrance.

Coordinating the complexity of the construction necessitated the use of BIM, something Mortenson has been leading the industry in for more than a decade. Nartonis says since the company utilized BIM in the construction of Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, the company has made BIM a part of all of its large-scale projects. Gallo says that expertise paid off when coordinating the air-handling system that makes up the hospital’s 10th floor. Weaving the massive ductwork required for the building through the trusses and columns supporting the building would have been extremely difficult to do without BIM, he says, and the technology gave the project team confidence that carried through to the end.

Although BIM is a bigger part of the industry now, it was still relatively unheard of when Children’s Memorial mandated its use on the project five years ago. “That was a bold move on their part,” Gallo says. “Tackling a job of this scale in 3-D hasn’t been done before.” As of mid-July, the project had been six weeks ahead of schedule and under budget. Komiske says the hospital is focused on raising more money to finish paying for the Lurie Children’s project, a task made more difficult by the economy’s impact on philanthropy. However, he says, the Mortenson/Power joint venture has stepped in to help raise capital for the project, and Komiske says the hospital is fortunate to have the team it does on the job.

“As an owner, there’s usually a hesitancy about joint ventures, and all of those things evaporated with the Mortenson/Power team,” he says. “They’ve been unbelievable partners.”

Nartonis says the joint venture has blended together so smoothly that hospital representatives often don’t know which professionals work for which contractor. “That’s a compliment to both firms for sticking with the collaboration that was intended when the partnership was formed,” he says. “One of the goals we set together was to make sure Children’s Memorial viewed us as a single team.”

Partners on this project include Gurtz Electric Co.

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