With a target completion date set for late 2016, Craig Hospital’s nearly $90-million expansion and renovation is nearing completion.

Since 1956 more than 30,000 people with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries have relied on the patient-centered treatment and cutting-edge research of the hospital, located in Englewood, Colo., a suburb south of Denver.

Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 10 rehab hospitals in the U.S. for 25 years, its team of specialists greets patients as they arrive from the ICU and sends them on their way months later with state-of-the art therapies, new skills and a fresh approach to life.

GE Johnson Construction Co., Colorado Springs and Denver, broke ground in March 2013 on a vertical addition to Craig’s west building and a four-level horizontal addition totaling 84,000 sq ft.

More than 120,000 sq ft of space—spread across three buildings—underwent a complete renovation to provide 52 new private patient rooms, a two-story rehabilitation center, two therapy gyms and two rehabilitation swimming pools. HVAC, elevator and electrical systems were replaced in the hospital’s west building.

Within the hospital, innovative patient-control technology allows patients to utilize eye and motion controls to operate nearly every element of their suites, including the television, window shades, lighting, audio systems and more.

Remarkably, the renovation and addition was completed while the hospital maintained 100% patient occupancy. GE Johnson compiled noise, vibration and communication protocols to minimize disruptions to sensitive-care patients and provided a full-time on-site staff and patient liaison to monitor disruption issues.

Craig averages 80 patients at any given time; most are highly sensitive to noise and will spend all of  their three- to six-month stay in a facility that is quite literally being taken apart and put back together before their eyes.

The Craig Hospital expansion was the result of close collaboration early in the design process between the entire project team, led by architect-of-record RTA Architects and partner design firm SmithGroupJJR, as well as general contractor GE Johnson Construction and hospital rehabilitation staff.  

When initial planning started in the winter of 2012, the team worked to resolve an extremely complex problem: how to build a new facility in and around an occupied traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spinal cord injuries (SCI) rehabilitation hospital with minimal disruption to patients and staff.  

A critical starting point was to call in experts from all disciplines and break the large project into 22 phases. Planning took a full year, which began with a week of immersion meetings by the design team at the hospital campus. Using an integrated project approach with the general contractor, the team co-located at the campus during concept and pre-schematic design to complete the plan, the design and the budget. The project team continued to meet on-site to collaborate through completion.

Collaborative Environment

The theme of collaboration extends throughout the facility. The new staff workstations are designed to encourage a team-oriented environment for therapists, doctors and nurses. Cozy bistros are located on each patient level, offering space for families and staff to share meals with patients. Patient hallways are flared to widen at the north end to create spacious sitting areas while accommodating the expansive windows that stream daylight down the hallways.

Details and finishes of the hospital reflect the collaborative nature of the design. The building has sand-colored walls that feature thematic nature-based artwork, and sound-absorptive rubber flooring and acoustical ceiling tiles create a tranquil atmosphere for patients. Even the lighting is designed to bathe the walls with warm, indirect light so that patients in wheelchairs don’t have to look up into glaring ceiling lights.

Because the needs of TBI patients differ from those who have sustained SCIs, the two groups have been given separate levels of the hospital. The top floor (level four) houses SCI patients and their brightly colored, active therapy gym.

TBI patients are treated on level three, a quieter floor with an equally tranquil gym.

Exterior Features

Outside the front entrance, architects designed a sensory garden, complete with wheelchair paths and raised plant containers positioned precisely at the height of a patient seated in a wheelchair so they are able to touch and smell the growing foliage.

Water features stimulate auditory development. The chapel, which is nearly complete, features a cork floor and a white-stone accent wall with recessed shelves that can carry items from any faith.

Craig’s PEAK Community Outpatient Rehabilitation Center has doubled in size, with technology as its man feature. The floor of the therapy pool functions as an automated lift so that clients and patients in wheelchairs can be lowered into the pool, eliminating the need for a separate transfer lift.

Although the footprint of Craig has expanded from 135,000 to 220,000 sq ft, the patient capacity remains the same because the new facility offers private suites with ample space for family to visit and confer with physicians and the rehab team. According to RTA Architects’ Paul Reu, all of the 52 beds are occupied, and the hospital maintains a waiting list.

Reu says that the only pieces remaining to be completed are Craig’s outpatient clinic, the outpatient therapy center, resident doctors’ office and kitchen and servery renovations in the main cafeteria.

“Craig is part of the history of Englewood—it’s a landmark,” says GE Johnson project manager Theron Skidmore. “Finding the land to build an entire new structure and let this one go just didn’t make sense. This is their home, and they had the capacity to add on to their home and stay right where they are.”