University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio: Patrick Lew & Richard DeLeon

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Last year, the University of Texas Health Science Center opened the Medical Arts & Research Center (MARC), a 286,000 square foot building that stands eight stories high. The MARC is now the clinical home to 250 UT medical faculty that consolidates their main clinic with many of their smaller clinical locations which formerly were located throughout the city of San Antonio. The building also includes an ambulatory surgical center, a medical imaging suite, and two floors of medical school offices.

Richard DeLeon and Patrick Lew work for the UT System Office of Facilities Planning and Construction. DeLeon is one of six program managers for the System’s $4 billion in active construction projects around the state. Specifically, he oversees capital construction projects for one healthcare and three academic campuses in South Texas. As a Senior Project Manager, Lew oversees projects on the San Antonio campus.

Building the MARC

“The UT System is a public entity,” says DeLeon, “so we are bound by not only federal and state laws, but we also have a board of regents that oversee our operations. It can be an interesting challenge delivering projects in such a dynamic industry, but fortunately we have very established processes that serve as a great template for all of our projects.”

Architects for UT System projects are selected in an open qualifications basis. Firms are able to submit their qualifications in response to publicly advertised selection criteria.  For the MARC, they selected FKP Architects of Houston, a firm that specializes in the healthcare service market.

“They led the way in educating us in healthcare projects that had been constructed around the country,” says DeLeon.  “This collaboration was effective in blending our conventional institutional building practices with commercial elements that were introduced for better overall alignment with the campuses’ medical practice plan.”

A local San Antonio firm, Barlett Cocke General Contractors, provided construction management services. The UT System opted for the Construction Manager-at-Risk method of delivery, which means the construction manager provided budget, schedule and constructability expertise during design, and guaranteed the completion of the project within a set price and schedule. “They brought a first class team to help us deliver the project, and coupled with the design architects and engineers, the project was delivered successfully,” says DeLeon.

A Landscape Change for the UT System Campus

The MARC project involved approximately two years of design and planning, and two years of construction. “One tool we used was the building of mock-up exam rooms, completely finished out and equipped with beds, outlets, and swing arm tablets for data entry. We then had nurses and physicians inspect the mock-ups to help them visualize how they would work with the patients. Based on their input, we were able to refine minor elements of the design for things such as cabinet placement, door swings and privacy curtains,” says DeLeon.

Once construction was nearly three-quarters of the way complete, the UT project managers began providing formal walking tours of the building to the physicians and nurses.  This was done in order to help the staff begin to visualize transitioning into the new setting.

“It was challenging to design for the infrastructure,” says Lew. In medical imaging for instance, it was important to have the latest technology. To take advantage of the latest equipment, final decisions were not made until well past the initial design stage and well into construction. “A lot of the imaging area wasn’t really designed until the equipment was selected so it occurred out of sequence.  Although it’s a challenge, advancements in medical equipment sometimes necessitate selections late in construction,” says Lew.

In 2006 while the project was bidding, inflation in the construction market was rampant. “We had to deal with rising costs and supply shortages,” says Lew. “It was pretty stressful during design to just keep the project in budget.”

The eighth floor of the building in fact, was initially planned as a shell to help control costs. “It was entirely shelled on the recommendation of our project team,” says DeLeon. “We were carrying a price for the eighth floor throughout the course of the project and about half way through, it became evident that through good budget management by the team and leadership from the campus’ Office of New Construction, we were able to finish the entire floor.”

“There were other examples of flexibility as well,” says Lew. “We started with a greenfield site and through efficient planning we actually only used about half of it. The facility was planned so that it could be expanded in the future.”

“The building was designed to make it convenient for the patients,” says DeLeon. “Also, the exam rooms were zoned in a manner to allow the different clinics to flex between each other depending on the demand as well as how busy equipment was. We also provided shelled areas in the ambulatory surgical center and the imaging area to allow for future expansion.”

Future Projects

In a system the size of UT, there is always construction underway. With the intention of drawing elite researchers, they are currently building a world class research facility designed by an international architect. The $150 million dollar project is about 12 months from completion.  Six major areas of research will be housed in the 175,000 square foot facility, and will feature the latest in available technology to study infectious diseases relevant to South Texas and the world.

-by T. M. Simmons

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RGM July 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Outstanding job in the ever changing world of medicine.


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