New Shands cancer hospital rises


Published: Monday, October 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

The first things you notice are the construction cranes - angular giants more than 200 feet tall that hover over the first three floors of the University of Florida Shands Cancer Hospital.

It's not until you tour the site that you realize the scope of the 500,000-square-foot facility that is rising just across Archer Road from Shands at UF.

Three hundred workers are on site. According to Brad Pollitt, vice president of facilities development for Shands, the number will swell to 1,000 as work begins on the interior drywall, mechanical and electrical systems of the eight-story hospital. That interior work can probably begin in the next two weeks, Pollitt said, as additional floors rise above the three now in place.

Skanska, the Stockholm-based construction firm that is building the hospital, expects to "top out" the uppermost of eight floors and the penthouse mechanical space by December.

Then work will focus on the interior space, which will include 192 private rooms, a dozen operating rooms, a critical-care center with emergency and trauma services, even separate banks of elevators for moving supplies, staff or patients and visitors. Anyone who has squeezed in next to a gurney with a patient being transferred to a different floor at Shands will appreciate that particular improvement.

On the west side of the building, where the emergency department will be located, precast panels are being set in place and windows framed in the newly created walls. On the east side, a curving expanse marks the future front entrance, which will overlook a healing garden.

A double boulevard will lead off Archer Road and onto the new hospital campus. Pollitt said Shands will be landscaping and improving the bicycle rail-trail where it passes the hospital on the north side. The utility lines will be relocated and utility poles that now line that side of Archer Road will disappear.

Drivers on SW 13th Street may have noticed yet another construction crane excavating a pit, which is the future site of a power plant for the hospital.

Gainesville Regional Utilities has contracted with the firm of Burns & McDonnell to design and build what they're calling an energy center. GRU will break ground on the project Thursday.

The 4.2-megawatt facility will be powered by natural gas, running a turbine engine to generate electricity for the hospital. GRU officials say that should provide a 46 percent savings over traditional fossil fuel-burning generators. The Shands south campus will have the first such energy center east of the Mississippi, and the second in the nation.

Pollitt points out that all hospitals have emergency generators to run essential services in the event of a storm-related power failure. But the cancer hospital will have a dedicated power plant.

"That way, in the event of an emergency, all our systems will be up and running," he said.

Plans for the energy center are in line with Shands' efforts to earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for the hospital project.

As part of that effort, for example, 70 percent of the main structure of the former University Centre Hotel was recycled after it was demolished on site, as was nearly 100 percent of the adjacent parking garage.

A new parking garage will be built next to the energy center on the 13th Street side of the 30-acre hospital campus. In late spring or early summer, work will begin on a tunnel under Archer Road to link the new hospital with Shands across the street.

Construction is expected to be completed by 2009.

Diane Chun can be reached at 352-374-5041 or chund@gvillesun.com

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