Texas Children's Hospital and its family of medical facilities at Houston's Texas Medical Center are welcoming a new addition. The Pavilion for Women is a $575-million facility that will bring maternity and neonatal care capabilities to the hospital. Taking the pavilion from conception to birth is the most ambitious construction project in the hospital's history and the centerpiece of its $1.5-billion Vision 2010 expansion program.

The 796,000-sq-ft, 90-bed facility combines an architecturally challenging design, a two-story signature pedestrian bridge that crosses a street and rapid transit line and one of the deepest excavations ever done at the Texas Medical Center complex.

An aggressive schedule added to the challenge, says Jill Pearsall, director of facilities, planning and development at Texas Children's, one of the largest children's hospitals in the U.S. The project broke ground in January 2008, topped out in June 2010 and will turn over the outpatient services portion of the structure this fall and the tower early in 2012. Construction costs have totaled $370 million.

“This size building, in a dense urban environment, in the four-year time frame we had to build it, is an amazing feat,” she says.

FKP Architects, Houston, designed the concrete structure to compliment the surrounding buildings, while adding clear glass and other materials to the campus palate of copper and red stone facades.

“The owner wanted an iconic building in the corner of the Texas Medical Center and have it look different and unique because this is a pavilion for women, a new business for Texas Children's,” says Michael Shirley, FKP principal and senior project director.

“Our vision for the Texas Children's Pavilion for Women is that it will enable us to improve neonatal outcomes by providing moms and moms-to-be with a full continuum of family-centered maternity care beginning before conception and continuing after delivery,” says Cris Daskevich, Texas Children's senior vice president.

FKP positioned the building offset to the street grid to enhance the views of and from the building while complementing the existing pediatric tower, which is also angled to the street.

Consequently, column lines come off at a 45-degree angle from the property line, with the building sporting multiple curves that created challenges for the build team, says Tommy Kubin, vice president and project manager at W.S. Bellows Construction, Houston. “Nothing was square,” he points out. “More attention to detail was required to make sure we had everything laid out.”

Planning ahead

While the building is already among the largest on campus, planners were thinking about making it even bigger. FKP left space and knockout panels to allow the set-up cranes to accommodate future expansions and designed additional elevator shafts and space utility systems. “We were designing multiple buildings to build this first building,” Shirley says.

“We had to design the infrastructure to support a 2-million-square-foot building when they were initially building out [about] 800,000 square feet,” says Larry Gray, a mechanical engineer with Smith Seckman Reid, Houston.

The building has no back-of-house space, requiring the engineering firm to find a way to aesthetically place the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. “There's no ugly side where you can site things,” Gray says. “The architecture was complicated.”