Two big white girders, covered with University of Kansas Hospital employee signatures, will be hefted into place Thursday afternoon, signaling that a new 13-floor patient tower has reached its top construction height.
The tower isn’t expected to be ready for patient occupancy until 2018, but the topping-out ceremony charts a construction milestone for the 558,570-square-foot building that’s being erected immediately north of the existing KU Hospital at 39th and Cambridge streets.
A two-level bridge connecting the two hospital towers already spans 39th Street. When opened, one level will be available for public access and the other will be reserved for staff and patient movement.
The $370 million project — which includes $237 million in construction costs — eventually will have seven floors allocated for a 220-room expansion.
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“We are full every day now,” John McDonough, KU Hospital’s vice president of facilities services and real estate development, said of the existing hospital.
The initial construction phase will add 124 inpatient rooms on four floors. That occupancy, on the fifth, sixth, seventh and eleventh levels, is planned for early 2018. Floors five and 11 are designed for intensive care units; six and seven are targeted for acute care.
From the 11th floor, patient windows will give expansive views of area landmarks such as Worlds of Fun to the north, the Jackson County Sports Complex to the east, the Waldo water tower to the south, and Cerner buildings at Wyandotte County’s Village West area to the west.
Officials said the new tower will house KU Hospital’s fastest growing specialties, neurosciences, surgical oncology, and ear, nose and throat.
Phase-one construction on the new facility, known as Cambridge North, also includes a lower service level and a street level with such public-access services as admitting, cafeteria, gift shop, retail pharmacy and meeting areas.
It devotes the tower’s second floor to imaging services and staff support areas. Level three will house 11 operating rooms. Level four will hold mechanical and electrical systems, as will two more levels above the 11th floor.
Another three floors, planned for inpatient rooms on the eighth, ninth and tenth levels, are to be completed in a second construction phase during 2018.
JE Dunn Construction is leading the project, for which ground was broken in March 2015. Dunn officials said about 400 construction workers are building the tower.
CannonDesign of St. Louis designed the tower.
Shelly Koehler, Dunn’s project manager on site, said the construction process is being assisted by regular walk-throughs by hospital staff.
“They ask questions and point out things, like where a utility outlet makes more sense,” Koehler said.
McDonough also noted that planners built mockups of patient rooms in an off-site warehouse to be able to test size and components and have doctors and nurses review every detail while work is in progress.
“The new rooms will incorporate more technology and have more emphasis on safe patient handling,” McDonough said. “Each will have patient lift equipment to help the nurses.”
The construction also relies heavily on 3-D technology, said construction superintendent Rick Van Tuyl.
On a site tour Tuesday afternoon, Van Tuyl pointed out webs of intricately designed fittings in the operating room suites that will connect oxygen and air supplies and equipment where it’s needed in the sterile rooms.
“When everything can be coordinated in 3-D, it helps the construction process along,” he said.
The project includes a new multilevel parking garage for 2,200 cars, located immediately northwest of the new Cambridge Tower. The garage will serve the University of Kansas Medical Center as well as KU Hospital.
KU Hospitals owns the property between 36th and 39th streets, between State Line Road and Rainbow Boulevard. Its long-term master plan envisions a total of four towers on the property.
The plan calls for a second bridge to connect the Cambridge North tower with the new parking garage. The hospital system will focus traffic access to both the existing and new garages on Cambridge, which is one block west of State Line.