Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin Seeks First LEED Platinum Health-Care Rating a u s t i n On June 27, the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas will open its doors as the first hospital in the world expected to achieve platinum LEED certification from the U.S Green Building Council. Located on approximately 32 acres of the site formerly occupied by Austin’s Robert Mueller Municipal Airport, the four-story pediatric facility will replace the downtown Children’s Hospital of Austin with a complex three times its size. The Dell Center’s 475,000 square feet will accommodate 170 patient beds and serve children from 46 surrounding counties as the only non-profit hospital in Central Texas dedicated completely to pediatric care. The hospital was originally planned for a different site in North Austin, but the more centrally located Mueller Airport site, decommissioned as an airport since the late 1990s, needed an anchor tenant for its 750-acre redevelopment. City of Austin standards require all projects on the site to be high-performance, and the Seton Healthcare Network – owners of the new facility – opted to seek a LEED Platinum rating to set the highest possible standard.
Multiple levels of the Dell Children’s Medical Center spread the building’s bulk over a large floor plate, making it appear less imposing to its young patients and letting natural daylight permeate the facility.
Striving for platinum LEED certification proved no easy task for Karlsberger Architecture, an Ohio-based firm that specializes in the design of pediatric facilities. Traditionally, hospitals have difficulty attaining a high LEED rating because of their constant power consumption and more restrictive health codes. As a result, the project team, including Austinbased sustainability consultant Center for Maximum Building Potential Systems, focused heavily on conservation and efficiency through the duration of the project. White Construction of Austin broke ground in October 2004, implementing a plan to recycle 75 percent of waste materials during construction. More than 225 medical professionals and patient family members were involved in designing the facility, which features a huband-spoke pattern allowing for 250,000 square feet of future expansion that won’t disrupt health care operations during future construction. This configuration also lets in ample natural lighting, keeping patients in every department except surgery within 32 feet of daylight. To further improve indoor air quality, a purifying system will help reduce airborne pollutants. A 145-foot steel-frame tower highlights the building as a wayfinding element and historic reference to the Catholic Daughters of Charity, which owns Seton. Passing motorists can see
the tower from Interstate 35, and its LED light fixtures will be programmed to change colors and patterns. The unoccupied tower of glass, stone, and metal will be capped with a tensile fabric structure representing an abstract nun’s coronet, an icon repeated in canopy features elsewhere at the site. The curved metal-and-limestone exterior of the patient towers will permit views of the three-acre “healing garden” to the south, complete with water and playground features. Five large inner courtyards will represent ecoregions found in Central Texas and provide the building with what its architects call “lungs.” Materials unique to Central Texas will enhance the aesthetics of the cast-in-place concrete facility. In addition, Leuters limestone and red split-face sandstone mined from West Texas qualify for LEED points as originating from within 500 miles of the job site. With a $200 million price tag, funding became an issue central to the Center’s construction. A charity drive yielded $50 million in donations, supplemented by a $25 million matching grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Seton Healthcare Network is paying the remaining $125 million. J e a n e t t e
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The writer is an editorial intern for Texas Architect.
renderings courtesy karlsberger architecture 5 / 6
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