As part of last week's Built Environment Network meeting outside of Chicago, attendees were invited to tour the new East Tower of Chicago's Rush University Medical Center—a facility that has gotten more than a fair amount of publicity over the last few years—with Vice President of Campus Transformation Mick Zdeblick (a Built Environment Network member). A 14-story, LEED Gold addition that essentially serves as Rush’s new front door, the East Tower incorporates a stunning new lobby, ED, imaging, NICU, LDR, critical care, and acute care spaces in a visually arresting “butterfly” design that can be seen from a main artery into the city, providing the kind of branding that money can’t buy.

For such a large building, Rush is decidedly tranquil. The building was jammed with patients on all floors on the day we visited, and yet it was as quiet as a church—at least partially the result of extensive soundproofing measures taken, including the (somewhat controversial) decision to use carpet tiles in the public areas of the patient floors. The facility also features a series of rooftop gardens, both public and, significantly, several that are dedicated to staff only, providing much-needed areas of respite with spectacular views of downtown Chicago and adding to the general feeling of calm.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the new tower to me, however, is what goes on behind the walls. Trash and soiled linens are transported via a massive pneumatic tube system powered by a jet engine so powerful that the Rush braintrust has yet to find a garbage bag that can withstand the forces within the chute. And what modern healthcare facility would be complete without robots? Rush features a whole fleet of them, programmed to deliver supplies throughout the building and then take themselves to a charging station when necessary. Watching the robots mill around the Rush basement was an unexpected treat for sure.

There is a lot more to comment on, of course, and HEALTHCARE DESIGN will be featuring Rush University Medical Center's East Tower as a monthly Showcase facility in an upcoming issue. Keep an eye on the HEALTHCARE DESIGN Website to read it first.