HONORABLE MENTION – 2022 Healthcare Design Showcase

For a century, the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI) has been a world leader in transforming the lives of all individuals with disabilities and complex health care needs. Its patients include some of the nation’s most underserved, including those with autism spectrum and severe behavioral disorders. Today, MMI offers more than 100 services including physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychological services, genetic evaluation, assistive technology, autism assessment/treatment, speech-language pathology, and more.

MMI’s existing home was an aging facility that had long outgrown its usefulness. The University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) committed to building a new, world-class facility where interdisciplinary care could be efficiently delivered. To this end, an existing 200,000-square-foot office building was purchased 3 miles away from UNMC’s main campus that would become the new home of Munroe-Meyer Institute.

The project included renovation and redevelopment of an existing building under an aggressive timeline and controlled budget. Through value-engineering, extensive collaboration, and careful planning, the new 220,078-square-foot facility opened its doors to patients and families in June 2021.

The new facility is the first of its kind in the nation. The planning and design process was collaborative from the start. Architects consulted with owners, MMI clients, and clinicians to create a plan that enhances and simplifies the patient experience. Designers were challenged to implement low-sensory environments that retained the essence of whimsy and play. Patients on the autism spectrum required an environment that would stimulate, not aggravate, their sensitive emotional response to the external environment. Patients with severe behavioral issues required special accommodations like padded rooms, controlled access, special lighting, and full-time observation capability. Staff needed spaces where research, treatment and medical services could be delivered in an environment conducive to collaboration and learning. Rather than designing generic spaces for care, the design team focused individually on hundreds of unique spaces and designed around the intended use.

Focused care and educational spaces include technology-enhanced observation and respite zones; a one-bedroom, furnished apartment home for teaching hands-on life skills; the Caring for Champions Program, a collaboration with Special Olympics that provides sustained vision, dental, and weight management services; and a new aquatic center and playground complete with a splash pad, therapy and recreational pools.

For the first time in its 100-year history, MMI can provide its wide range of services under one roof in a facility specifically designed to foster a patient-centered, family-inclusive care experience.

Project category: New construction and remodel/renovation

Chief administrator: Karoly Mirnics, M.D., Ph.D., director, Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center

Firm: Altus Architectural Studios Inc., altusstudios.com

Design team: University of Nebraska Medical Center Facilities Management (facility planning and management); Altus Architectural Studios Inc. (planning, programming,
and design); MCL Construction (construction services and management); Specialized Engineering Solutions (MEP engineering); Olsson (structural and civil engineering); JEO Consulting Group Inc. (pool design)

Total building area (sq. ft.): 220,078

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $194

Total construction cost (excluding land): $42.7 million

Completed: June 2021