If you’ve seen photos of Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s new patient tower, it’s tough not to be immediately drawn into its bold use of color, undulating lines, and sparkling finishes.

And walking through it only solidifies the effect. Those design elements, along with a number of other creative touches, together create a cohesive care environment that’s smart and purposeful in its flair without being overly themed.

As part of this week’s HEALTHCARE DESIGN Conference taking place in Phoenix, I had the opportunity to see the facility with my own eyes, a treat after featuring the addition in the March 2011 issue of Healthcare Design (see "Desert Flower")—after all, as editors here, we often are among the first to report on some of the nation’s newest building projects, but we don’t always have the chance to see them firsthand.

Before showing off the end result of their work, Dave Cottle, planning, design, and construction executive for the hospital, Jeff Stouffer, principal-in-charge on the project for HKS Inc., and other members of the project team shared with attendees the story of the project from inception to completion.

And between those two stages came a few challenges, namely a request from ownership to reduce the budget by $100 million and a merger with nearby St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. The team was able to shave $64 million from the budget, mainly by leaving some floors of the tower as shelled space and canceling the construction of a parking garage. However, the merger came with yet another complication—in order to take on St. Joe’s patients and services, the new tower needed to be completed four weeks early.

They did it. The resulting 11-story tower offers 770,000 square feet housing 334 private patient rooms and 94,530 feet of ambulatory care clinics, plus the project also features a new main entry, central energy plant, and three parking structures.

And today, the facility is already bracing for the future. The merger is still pushing the need for more beds, and subsequently plans for the future buildout of the 3.5 floors of shelled space in the tower. A new emergency department has also gone through schematic design and is ready to get off the ground as soon as financing is in place.

In the meantime, a post-occupancy evaluation is going to be conducted within the next three to four months to measure the success, or failure, of everything from operational effectiveness to materials selection to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. Just one example is the move to a racetrack model with decentralized nurses’ stations for care delivery, whereas pods were used in the old hospital.

I hope we all get to hear more on the new tower’s effectiveness, and I’m sure many eyes will be on Phoenix Children’s as it continues to check off more boxes in its ongoing master plan.

Follow updates on Twitter using the hash tag #HCDCon.