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JOLIET, IL-Work has begun on the $400-million replacement facility for Silver Cross hospital. The new 560,000-square-foot, 289-room hospital was designed by RTKL and will be located about three miles east of the current facility.

The new construction will allow Silver Cross to update its facility to meet the demands of modern patients and medicine, according to Alan C. Wilson, vice president of RTKL.

“Larger patient rooms are now accommodating families to have them live in and stay in the room,” Wilson tells GlobeSt.com. “Older rooms typically are too small and don’t have all the support space to deal with current patient care issues. This new hospital was driven around an efficient operating model and that’s where the architecture comes from.”

The new plan, drafted after 18 months of meetings with hospital leaders, focused on giving nurses more time to spend with patients, and therefore distributing nurses’ stations around the patients’ rooms.

“It was born out of nursing and clinical efficiency, because usually if it’s efficient for the nurse, it’s efficient for the physician,” Wilson says. “Form follows function and we really started the heart and soul of this design by meeting with the hospital to find a new standard and operating model for taking care of patients and their families.”

The current hospital was built nearly a century ago. The campus, on 55 acres at 1200 Maple Rd., may be converted into an urgent care center when the new facility is completed. The new hospital, which is expected to be completed in the fall of 2011, will be developed on 76 acres at the intersection of US Route 6 and the new Interstate 355 extension.

“All of the options to replace the beds and stay on the current campus were very expensive, because trying to do an expansion of an existing hospital can be very difficult from an operational standpoint,” Wilson says. “New construction would take part of the site so they would have lost parking and we would have had to do a lot of infrastructure work just to do the expansion. It was much more cost-effective to consider building a new one, which is happening quite frequently and you’re able to develop a more efficient hospital plan.”

Wilson says the new hospital was designed with the demands of ever-advancing technology in mind. “The current hospital has had several additions, and as this building grows and expands over the next century, it can be just as efficient in 50 years as it can be today,” Wilson says. “The towers were designed so as we grow things, they don’t get compromised over time. We really designed this hospital to be able to double and triple in size, and when it does, it will still be able to operate as efficiently as it does on opening day.” RTKL planned the tower, which will start at six-stories high, to support the addition of another two floors and 144 beds on top without expanding the base or disrupting operations.

The hospital also has planned to construct an adjoining six-story, 200,000-square-foot building next door, which will house some administrative and other departments that don’t need to be inside the main building. Eventually, Silver Cross hopes to construct on the campus a 60,000-square-foot medical office building, most likely to be occupied by physicians that would have cause to admit patients into the hospital. Campus plans also include a lake at the front of the property, which will retain storm run-off. A bike and walking path will be developed around the lake for use by patients and their families.

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