The facilities are also designed to be resilient during storms. UMC is the replacement for the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans, which closed after sustaining serious flood damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

A sister state-run institution, Charity Hospital, suffered severe flood damage during the storm, was forced to evacuate patients and never reopened its doors. City and state officials say UMC will return much needed medical services to New Orleans and help propel the region to the forefront of medical technology.

When completed, UMC will be the only Level One trauma center in southeast Louisiana, so keeping it functional during future disasters will be essential. All mission-critical hospital facilities are located at least 21 ft above base flood elevation.

Less critical public and office spaces are placed at ground level. Technology and emergency power can continue to operate for up to a week after a Category 3 storm, according to NBBJ.

Easterwood says he has been very impressed with the quality of the work force in New Orleans. "We are restoring health care to New Orleans," he says. "The workers are excited to be here, and you can see it's an important thing for them and their community."