Shands tops its new hospital

Published: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

Wednesday marked the topping out of the new cancer hospital at Shands at the University of Florida.

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Construction workers working on the new Shands Cancer Hospital sign a steel beam before the start of a "Topping Out" ceremony to signal the end of exterior construction on the building Wednesday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun


Construction by the numbers

112,500 square feet of shoring installed

150,000 cubic yards of dirt hauled off site (that's 10,000 truckloads)

15 miles of pilings under the building

797,000 pounds of sheet-metal ductwork

500,000 square feet of concrete slab

At 7:35 in the morning, the last load of concrete was poured for the highest level of the $388 million, 500,000-square-foot facility that is scheduled to open next year.

Then, under a bright midday sun, hundreds of workers who have labored on the structure located across Archer Road from Shands at UF gathered to watch the last beam lifted into place by the same giant crane that has loomed over the building site since construction began in January of last year.

Ralph Easterwood, general superintendent of the project for Skanska USA Building Inc., said that the topping-out ceremonies had been set for March, but the project was thus far ahead of schedule. His list of what had gone into the building was a long one, from the 10,000 truckloads of dirt that were hauled away to the 30,000 yards of concrete that had been poured.

"That's big," Easterwood said. "But first and foremost (on the list of accomplishments) is the fact that every person involved has gone home safely to their family every single night. That's 332,000 man hours, with zero lost time."

Jeff Raasch of the architectural firm Flad and Associates said that there was no greater joy for all those involved than seeing one's vision come to life.

Addressing the many Hispanic workers in the audience, Shands CEO Tim Goldfarb told them (in Spanish), "We build with hands, head and heart."

Goldfarb said he expected the new hospital, which will have 192 private inpatient beds and a variety of services, including emergency and trauma care, to be "a magnet for those who have dreams for cancer care in our state."

To the cheers of the workers, he promised, "Eighteen months from today, we'll have a real party."

High atop the structure, which will have eight floors and a mechanical "penthouse" area, stood a small magnolia tree.

The magnolia was a Southern twist on the traditional evergreen tree that has its roots in Scandinavian mythology, when a new home would be topped with a leafy branch to appease the spirits of the trees used in its construction.

The last iron beam was signed by many of the project's workers before it was lifted high to be incorporated into the construction of the penthouse.

The beam was topped by an American flag. Goldfarb told those who'd gathered around it that the flag was to recognize "all those men and women in service who defend us as we stand here today."

Brad Pollitt, Shands vice president for facilities development, said Wednesday that with the concrete superstructure complete, the exterior skin of the hospital will be added.

"Now that we're under cover, work will focus on the interior space," Pollitt said.

Diane Chun can be reached at 352-374-5041 or

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