Planners at Texas Children’s Hospitals think big. Already the largest children’s hospital in the United States, the Houston-based hospital set out to further build on its vast resources with Vision 2010, a $1.5-billion expansion program. The initiative, which was announced in 2006, is the largest investment in Texas Children’s history, adding two new buildings, expanding existing facilities and establishing a new campus. Beyond providing future care for patients, the building program has proven to be a lifeline for thousands of Houston-area construction workers, suppliers, designers and consultants during tough economic times, earning it the designation as Texas Construction’s 2010 Owner of the Year.

The capital program includes three new facilities at the Texas Medical Center campus in Houston: the $215-million 370,000-sq-ft Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute; the $575-million 796,000-sq-ft Texas Children’s Maternity Center; and a $120-million 206,000-sq-ft expansion of the existing Feigin Center. Crews are also building a new $220-million 534,000-sq-ft suburban pediatric hospital near the West Houston Airport. An additional $370 million is earmarked for new equipment and information systems to support quality improvement.

As much of Vision 2010 unfolds within the high-density Texas Medical Center, which is the largest medical center in the world, planning, coordination and communication have been key to the program’s success. Jill Pearsall, director of facilities, planning and development at Texas Children’s Hospital, says that Texas Children’s is a “very hands-on owner,” but in doing so it has fostered a productive environment that is paying off for all parties.

“Having a good plan and a clear focus and not entertaining diversions has made this a success,” she says.

Pearsall’s team dedicated a project manager to each facility, using two existing staff members and hiring two additional ones. To better manage expectations among its decision-makers and stakeholders, Texas Children’s created steering committees for each project that included administrators, executive leadership and key users such as physicians. The West Campus project alone has 40 different user groups.

“We explained to the committees up front what their roles were, what their decision-making responsibilities were and which ones were not,’” Pearsall says. “Had we not done that and gotten that commitment early on, I don’t think we would have been as successful as we have been.”

Quick delivery was critical, Pearsall says, so Texas Children’s chose to procure each project using a fast-track approach, hiring the general contractors and architects at the same time. She says the team avoided design-build because it wasn’t conducive to its hands-on style of management.

“We have truly owned this program internally,” she says. “Like many owners, we could have contracted out [project management] and moved into these buildings and made it work as best we could, but we’re tremendously committed as an organization to doing this right.”

Texas Children’s also chose to hire local general contractors to help ensure quick response times. The four projects were split between two firms to make sure there would be adequate capacity. W.S. Bellows Construction of Houston was contracted for the Maternity Center and the Feigin Center. Tellepsen Builders of Houston was awarded the West Campus and Neurological Research Institute projects.

Greg Stringer, project executive at Tellepsen, says that Vision 2010 has been a major boon for its crews during the recession. The West Campus project has used up to 450 workers per day while the Neurological Research Institute sees upwards of 350.

“That’s a significant workforce in this community and that’s just the field staff,” he says. “Add in the supply companies, the truck drivers, our off-site staff and everyone else involved, and it’s a big boost to the economy in Houston.”

Texas Children’s kicked off Vision 2010 in 2006 with the Feigin Center project, which added 8 stories to the existing 12-story research building. Since no site analysis was required, the job could start quickly, however, significant...