Children’s Opens: The Full Report

Children’s of Alabama Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children Opens


The Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children (BRHFC) opened for patient move-in on August 4. The opening marked the highly anticipated completion of construction on the 12-story, 760,000-square-foot, $400 million expansion at Children’s of Alabama, the state’s only freestanding pediatric hospital.


HKS, Inc., in partnership with Giattina Aycock Studio, served as architect. KLMK Group was project manager; Hoar Construction, in partnership with KBR, served as construction manager.


Located one block north of the existing facility, BRHFC will accommodate projected growth in patient volume, anticipated medical technology needs and the planned consolidation of pediatric services including cardiovascular surgery and comprehensive solid organ transplant care. The hospital is licensed for 332 beds plus 48 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) bassinets.


Mike Warren, president and CEO of Children’s of Alabama, said, “We are delighted to open the doors of this magnificent facility to serve the children and families of Alabama.  The beauty of the Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children, its advanced technology, its environmental aspects and its family-focused design all serve as a wonderful backdrop for the skill, knowledge and commitment of the healthcare professionals who work here to provide care every day.  Our team is focused on one mighty mission: to provide the very best healthcare available to every child who walks through our doors. That is the true importance of this expansion.”


It is the largest single medical facility expansion project in the history of Alabama, and will make Children’s the third-largest pediatric hospital in the United States, as measured by square footage. The opening of the facility also allows Children’s to increase its licensed beds from 275 to 332, with an additional 48 neonatal bassinets. The total of 380 beds and bassinets ranks Children’s in the top 10 pediatric medical centers, based on bed count. The building is also the largest building project in state history to gain certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and will be the first LEED-certified hospital in Alabama.


The building is named in honor of legendary Alabama entrepreneur Benjamin Russell (1876-1941) and to recognize the $25 million gift from his grandson, Ben Russell and Ben’s wife Luanne, both longtime hospital supporters.


An Iconic Campus Building

According to Doug Compton, AIA, principal/senior designer with HKS, the BRHFC building stands as an iconic presence representing a new standard of pediatric healthcare offered in Alabama. “The hospital’s curvilinear design combines vision, gradate and opaque glass types that are punctuated with colors interspersed throughout the building – inside and out – for visual interest.”


The hospital is sited to best connect with the surrounding University of Alabama campus as well as the city and region. “The bed tower’s orientation promotes views to the central business district and Red Mountain, an important Birmingham landmark,” continued Compton. “The lobby and plaza form a visual tie to the 17th Street corridor, an urban link to the Railroad Park and, ultimately, downtown Birmingham.”


Family-Centered Care

To support its mission to provide family-centered care, BRHFC offers private, acute care rooms that are 30 percent larger than the largest rooms in the present building and, for the first time in the 100-year history of Children’s, all-private rooms in critical care units. Each features a sleeper sofa, large wardrobe and small safe for valuables, along with a special patient education/entertainment system.


For more family convenience, each patient floor offers a laundry room and a kitchen equipped with a full-size refrigerator, microwave and ice machine. Waiting areas at the end of the hallways are awash with natural light and provide sweeping views of the city, while 120 original works by Alabama artists decorate the public areas, adding to the family-friendly environment.


“Patients, families and visitors will find their way through the building using any of several visual cues that have been incorporated into the hospital’s interior design,” said Iris Dates, IIDA, EDAC, LEED AP, vice president/director of design for healthcare interiors for HKS. “A blue patient journey curving pattern within the terrazzo floors winds through the public areas, directing foot traffic to and from entrances, elevators and patient care areas. All patient floors and rooms are identified not only by number, but also by color and a special theme unique to each floor.”


Ahead of Schedule, Under Budget, Working with the Community

The project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. On a project of this size, coordination and collaboration were critical to the successful delivery of the BRHFC.  “From the onset, and through the many hurdles associated with a large complicated construction project, the project team had a laser focus on achieving our primary objective, which was to fulfill our commitment to the owner – finish on schedule and within their required budget. After three challenging years, we were able to actually over-deliver. The project completed on schedule and under budget. We absolutely credit this achievement to the collaboration of the entire project team,” stated Bill McMahon, president & COO of KLMK Group.


Doug Eckert, executive vice president of Hoar Construction said, “The Joint Venture construction team was committed to making this project an example for local participation and development of minority-owned and disadvantaged businesses. Through a unique, comprehensive mentoring approach and partnership with the Birmingham Construction Industry Authority, we were able to do just that.  More than 100 local minority-owned and disadvantaged businesses helped construct this wonderful facility, and thousands of local workers were employed, making a huge impact on families in this community.”


Environmentally Friendly

BRHFC is poised to become the first healthcare facility in Alabama to gain the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, due to its design and use of sustainable, energy-efficient and environmentally responsible materials. BRHFC is more energy-efficient, requires less maintenance and will last longer so that cost savings can be directed toward resources that enable Children’s to provide excellent healthcare to the children of Alabama.


A highlight of the effort to gain LEED certification is the rooftop gardens that are planted with native sedum to provide insulation and oxygenation. Up to 30,000 gallons of condensate is collected from the air conditioning system and used for irrigation and also to cool equipment. Designated green spaces on campus, 140 bicycle racks, and the orientation of the building all contribute to the hospital’s Earth-friendly profile.


“It has been a pleasure to work with such a talented and devoted team on this project,” said Mike McDevitt, executive vice president, facilities and technology, Children’s of Alabama. “All of the principal players and all those involved at every level with the construction of this facility have given 100 percent.  To each of them, it was more than just another job.  It was personal and meaningful, and that showed in their work and in the finished facility.  I can’t wait to see it used to provide care and healing for children today and well into the future.”

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