A major expansion of the historic Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas—the largest healthcare facility currently under construction nationwide—is creating the first “digital hospital” in the United States. This marks the third redevelopment of the complex, which first opened in 1893. When completed it will be twice as big as it was in 1963, when then-President John F. Kennedy was rushed to the hospital after being fatally shot. Designed by a joint venture of HDR and Corgan, the mammoth 17-story glass-and-steel building consists of six towers stacked at right angles to one another. Aiming for LEED Gold certification, it integrates with Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Green Line and Bus Transit Center, connecting the complex to downtown, as well as to other healthcare facilities in the city’s Medical District.
The new Master Plan creates three “neighborhoods”: the previous campus, the New Parkland campus opening on August 20, and a future transit-oriented development. “We had a very high vision statement that we wanted it to be the most patient and family-centric facility in the country; iconic, timely, and enduring,” said Louis Saksen, senior vice president of New Parkland Construction. “The design was set up so that the building is a reflection of what goes on inside.” The hospital’s two rooftop helipads are complemented with trauma elevators that can travel from the 18th floor rooftop to the ER in just 32 seconds.
Inside, meanwhile, separate staff elevators, parallel corridors, and offices on every floor serve behind-the-scenes operations allegedly inspired by Disney, so that patient corridors remain quiet and linen baskets and food carts tucked out of sight. Linen and garbage are whisked away via 18-inch pneumatic tubes to a separate building. Meanwhile, nurses can monitor patient activity using handheld devices that emit alerts if, for example, a patient at high risk of falling attempts to get out of bed. The facility cost a total of $1.3 billion with $80 million spent on technology, and contains its own power plant.
“We use natural gas to fire our boilers but we have the option of using fuel also,” explained Saksen. “Everything’s on a very sophisticated control system that minimizes the use of equipment and keeps it within the highest efficiency ranges. We’ve also got white roofs on all the buildings so we reduced the heat island effect, and high-efficiency glass cuts down on thermal gain.”
Constructed on a brownfield site, the campus includes parks and gardens planted with over 16,000 shrubs and 120,000 groundcover plants. “We have native drought-resistant plants, we have walkways where patients can take a walk inside the hospital. These areas are drought-tolerant, require minimum maintenance, and are more beautiful than a great big grassy lawn,” said Saksen.
Since the Texas Department of State Health requires that all patients have access to natural light, the architects carved light wells into the massing, allowing for additional windows. The new complex also has a Women & Infants’ Specialty Health Tower, where babies’ whereabouts are monitored using devices attached to their umbilical cords that automatically deactivate elevator doors if a baby is taken where it shouldn’t be.