“They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and it’s true,” said Walter Jones, senior vice president of facilities for Parkland Hospital (Dallas) to the audience assembled at ASHE PDC. While the new Parkland didn’t start out as the largest healthcare construction project in the U.S., he said, “In true Texas fashion, it ended up that way.”

With the groundbreaking ceremony held in 2010 and completion scheduled for 2014, Jones and two of his major team partners—Hank Adams, vice president and director of healthcare for HDR Inc. (Dallas), and Walt Massey, president of the consultancy division of Balfour Beatty Construction (Dallas)—took the opportunity at ASHE PDC to present “Half-Time at the New Parkland Hospital: Visiting the Project Team’s Locker Room.” Jones began by offering a bit of background on how this $1.27 billion, 64-acre, 2.7 million square-foot campus undertaking came to be.

As a safety net hospital system, Jones said, Parkland is essentially “responsible for everything, every time, for everyone, whenever it’s needed.” The system has been around since 1894, and the current hospital—which Jones described as a 1950s building with 1950s technology and standards—was simply too crowded, too outdated, and would be unable to serve the population growth expected.

In 2008, the hospital garnered 82 percent of the vote in favor of a bond issue to support a new facility.

For this massive project, Parkland assembled an integrated team that operated from a co-location office directly across from the new site. Adams described the office as a combination of spaces, including the “Big Room” for team cooperation, meeting spaces, a “Parkland Experience” room to demonstrate plans and ideas for donors, full BIM and IT infrastructure, mock-up rooms, and—eventually—eight completely built-out rooms (excluding plumbing), which were used for training and simulation.

The team even created a “tree house” exterior mock-up near the site, a tree-house version of the hospital for considering exterior materials.

The community and staff were involved right from the beginning with the visioning plan, as were academics and design/construction peers outside the project for feedback. A Clinical Liaison team served (and continues to serve) as the link between the end users and the project team.

The project involves many repeating elements that were considered for prefabrication. Massey offered a detailed look into the process by which the team decided and implemented the creation of 750 prefabricated bathroom pods, which were assembled offsite just two blocks away. Other prefab efforts are tackling 3 miles of overhead mechanical/electrical racks (constructed in 20-foot sections) and 850 headwalls. Massey’s one regret on the prefab efforts: “We could have done more.” Considering the cost and time savings expected from the work they’re already doing, Jones agreed. “We were a little timid in that regard,” he said, adding that they have 862 identical, same-handed rooms that could have followed this path as well.

Jones described the new Parkland as “a hospital for the future, not of the future.” As an example, 27 operating rooms were designed to be large enough to accommodate future advances in medical technology and equipment.

There have been hiccups: Regulatory requirements have necessitated some changes to the plans, and the leadership at Parkland has undergone significant changes, creating what Jones jokingly called an “I-suite” (interim leaders) instead of a C-suite. New leaders, of course, require a reexamination of programs across the board. In addition, the original design was based on 2007 predictions for volume—and those volumes are now expected to be much larger.

But the project remains on schedule and slightly under budget, and is also on track to achieve LEED Silver certification for new construction.