Some buildings bear a heavy burden. Health-care institutions certainly fall into that category. They must be dynamic, efficient and conducive to productivity. In these environments, success is measured in several ways: whether the building and its materials promote wellbeing, if equity and inclusiveness are factored into the design, and the quality and quantity of collaborative workspaces.
When the University of Minnesota needed a building for its new Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain (MIDB), an interdisciplinary research and treatment facility devoted to childhood and adolescent brain development, the university found itself at a crossroads. No existing facility on the school’s Twin Cities campus was sizable enough (and available) to house various clinical, research, community engagement and workplace functions under one roof. Further, siting and constructing a new ground-up building was an option constrained by time and budget.
It was important for MIDB administrators and staff to have a location that was convenient and accessible for patients, study participants and their families. In addition, they needed something dynamic, versatile and relatively close to the university’s main campus.
As luck would have it, in early 2019, a 10-acre campus and combined 117,000-square-foot building complex used by Shriners Children’s Hospital went on the market. Eyeing its optimal conditions and location, as well as the unique opportunity to retrofit a hospital into an interdisciplinary research institute, the university purchased the campus and got to work.
A ONE-OF-A-KIND MEDICAL CAMPUS
Creating a destination health-care campus that combines neurological research, clinical care, education and community outreach functions is an enormous undertaking for which there is no precedent. The former Shriners Children’s Hospital campus, constructed in 1991, featured a 103,000-square-foot medical facility; a 14,000-square-foot, 10-room hotel for families of patients, connected to the main building via a skyway; a two-level parking ramp fitted with 172 parking stalls; and, finally, a private and bucolic locale along the Mississippi River that is immediately accessible from I-94 and just 1 mile from the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus.
Remodeling a facility of this scale and for its intended purpose came with a long list of design and programming challenges. While some of the more standard infrastructure elements were kept in place, such as elevators, exterior enclosures and onsite features, like a gazebo and playground, the upgrades to MEP systems and the building’s overall look and feel were extensive.
To operate by design, MIDB required that various cross-disciplinary teams be able to function in one collaborative space, where research, clinical care, office work and community engagement efforts could be combined under one roof, rather than compartmentalized, which is the norm in such institutional settings.
HGA had to design for a combination of functions and disciplines that had never been combined before. From the very beginning, the project’s success relied on having a design-build team committed to learning and innovation.
Indeed, the makeup of MIDB’s design-build team was essential to its success. Composed of Knutson Construction, HGA and the University of Minnesota, this group met on a weekly basis, performed detailed walkthroughs and made note of necessary design fixes while in the field, based on existing site conditions and deteriorations to the building.
This workflow helped ensure that cost considerations would be factored in during pre-design phases and that MIDB’s design would be achieved as intended. This precluded such outcomes as cleaning up installation mistakes, diverting unnecessary waste and going over budget.
INTERIOR DESIGN WITH DEPTH AND FEELING
It is a new era for health-care design. Today’s practice places a premium on the integration of spaces to maximize collaboration. And those spaces are designed with a high regard for the health and wellbeing of staff and patients, as well as the health and wellbeing of our planet. MIDB is a great example of this.
While the old Shriners hospital building offered dozens of dedicated rooms for inpatient care, clinical exams and operating, as well as an abundance of private offices, nurses stations, imaging suites and other hospital-specific spaces, retrofitting the building to create MIDB required a true gut renovation.
Many of the sequestered spaces in the old hospital were not needed for the program HGA was building. They weren’t conducive to collaboration, nor had access to natural light.
Before construction began, a virtual 3D walkthrough of the building’s interior was performed using scanning technology, courtesy of Knutson Construction. This exercise helped the design-build team verify quantities, conditions and square-footage specifications, all remotely, which proved invaluable because COVID-19 pandemic protocols went into effect near the start of MIDB’s design phase.
PHOTOS: Corey Gaffer unless otherwise noted