Hospital Being Built at Airport? Sort of


Exterior panelCranes, trucks, scaffolding and concrete fill the downtown construction site for Ascension Seton’s future teaching hospital, Dell Ascension Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, across from University Medical Center Brackenridge.

Yet some of the work usually done on site is actually occurring in and around a warehouse almost 10 miles away, near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, as reported recently by KXAN.

About two dozen workers are building 733 exterior skin panels (outside walls, which represent up to 80 percent of the new hospital’s framed exterior), 158 patient bathroom “pods,” 292 patient room headwalls and 82 footwalls.

When completed, these prefabricated pieces will be placed on trucks, delivered to the construction site and installed using cranes.

The modules being built reflect inputs Ascension Seton solicited previously from physicians, nurses and other care team members to ensure patient comfort and safety while maximizing efficiency inside the new hospital.

For example, patient room headwalls will have medical gasses and electrical outlets located in new places recommended by care team members. Same with the location of supply storage, personal protective equipment, documentation stations and hand washing sinks.

The prefab work helps the construction crew meet the aggressive project timeline, said Greg Euston of JE Dunn, the project’s contractor. The new hospital is scheduled to be completed in Spring 2017.

But, there are other benefits, too, such as improved safety and better quality control.

Headwall, Footwall“For things like bathrooms and patient room headwalls, where there is a lot of plumbing, medical gas and wiring needs, we’re able to do all of the work in a controlled environment on ground level,” Euston said.

In general, off-site construction for large-scale projects has significantly ramped up in the last few years because firms such as JE Dunn recognize benefits learned from the manufacturing industry, he said.

“Like in an assembly line, you can be really efficient at things when you do it over and over again,” Euston said. Dell Ascension Seton Medical Center has the most prefab work JE Dunn has completed for any project, to date.

Prefab work also has helped bring down some of the construction expense, said Doug Strange, Ascension Health senior project manager and liaison for the teaching hospital. Ascension is the largest nonprofit and Catholic healthcare system in the U.S.; Ascension Seton is part of Ascension.

“Assembly line production is less expensive, which leaves us funds to use for other areas,” Strange said.

The off-site work will be wrapped up in the next few months. Installation of some of the exterior skin panels has already begun at the hospital construction site.