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Published October 03, 2013, 10:13 PM

Sanford unveils detailed look at $494 million hospital under construction

FARGO – Designers of the new Sanford Medical Center have found an antidote for winter in the form of a workaround that will help keep the project moving regardless of weather.

By: Patrick Springer, INFORUM

FARGO – Designers of the new Sanford Medical Center have found an antidote for winter in the form of a workaround that will help keep the project moving regardless of weather.

Significant parts of the $494 million building will be assembled in warehouses scattered around Fargo-Moorhead, then hoisted into place by cranes when completed.

The prefabricated features include headwalls for each of the 384 patient rooms, mechanical assemblies containing heating, cooling and other infrastructure components, and bathrooms.

“It’s fairly unique,” said Don Marty, Sanford’s vice president overseeing the construction project. The prefabrication process is enabled by sophisticated computer software.

Detailed designs of the project were unveiled Thursday as work continued on the center, slated to open in late 2016 or early 2017 near Veterans Boulevard and Interstate 94.

One of many challenges in a medical center that will tower 11 stories and occupy 1 million square feet is to make it feel unintimidating.

The designers of the new Sanford Medical Center hope to accomplish that by employing a traditional architectural style called collegiate gothic, Sanford’s signature look, with brickwork and earthy tones.

“We feel this has lasting appeal,” said Dennis Millirons, president of Sanford Medical Center-Fargo. “People will identify with this. It’s not intimidating.”

The style blends the institutional with the traditional, and is popular on university campuses, including North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota, and other hospitals, said Dan Noble, director of design for HKS, the Dallas firm that designed the center.

Efficient design

Health providers and designers collaborated to come up with a design that is as efficient as possible to save on operating costs and to avoid errors, Noble said.

“The big effort is how do you create this machine for healing,” he said.

One example is the use of nursing stations that are widely scattered throughout the building, instead of using fewer nursing stations that are larger and centralized.

That distributed approach translates into shorter trips between patient rooms and the nursing station, where supplies and pharmaceuticals are kept.

Shorter trips mean fewer interruptions in a nurse’s work. “When those interruptions happen,” Noble said, “errors happen.”

A nurse walks five to eight miles during a shift, on average. Shortened trips to the nurse’s station can help reduce fatigue, again helping to reduce errors.

Every patient room will have the same dimensions – standardization that reduces costs. Designers paid particular attention to the area between the patient bed and bathroom, because most patient falls occur when making that trip, Millirons said.

Each room will be equipped with a lift to help patients navigate that trip, improving safety for patients and nurses alike, he said.

‘A big hole’

Ground was broken in summer 2012 and workers recently finished driving 1,300 pilings to support the foundation and structure.

Workers will begin erecting the steel support structure in the summer, when the skeleton should begin to be visible as it emerges from the hole that provides the base for the center.

“Target Field [where the Minnesota Twins play in Minneapolis] would fit in the middle of that,” Millirons said, referring to the hole excavated for the foundation. “It’s a big hole.”

The medical center will have 384 beds, 51 emergency department bays and 28 operating rooms.

Specialties will include children’s pediatrics and pediatric intensive care, trauma care and emergency services, orthopedics and neurosurgery, as well as heart surgery and interventional cardiology.

Sanford’s downtown campus will “remain vital,” Millirons said. Plans will begin soon to determine which services will remain.

Among other services, it will have 220 beds and continue to house the Roger Maris Cancer Center and will have a walk-in clinic.

The new medical center is among a host of Sanford building projects under way totaling $1 billion that also includes a new $17 million clinic in Moorhead, a $60 million medical center in Thief River Falls, Minn., and a $20 million clinic in Dickinson.

By the numbers

- 1 million square feet, 11 stories, 384 beds

- 51 emergency room bays, 28 operating rooms

- Dirt moved to date totals 300,000 cubic yards, or 3.5 million wheelbarrow loads

- Total linear feet of steel pipe pilings: 97,000 feet, or 19 miles

- Estimated man hours to build project: 1.4 million

- Length of mechanical piping: 80 miles, enough to stretch from Fargo to Grand Forks

- Pounds of ductwork: 1.5 million pounds, or a herd of 750 bison

- The highest point will be seven feet lower than the top of the Radisson Hotel

- Between 700 and 800 construction workers will build the center

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522