Bridgers & Paxton Consulting Engineers: Rust Medical Center Surgery, Cancer Center Patient Tower 2

Addition to an existing hospital/health care facility


Figure 1: Rust Medical Center Surgery, Cancer Center Patient Tower 2 construction in Rio Rancho, N.M. Courtesy: Bridgers & Paxton Consulting EngineerEngineering firm: Bridgers & Paxton Consulting Engineers
2015 MEP Giants rank: 65
Project: Rust Medical Center Surgery, Cancer Center Patient Tower 2
Address: Rio Rancho, N.M., United States
Building type: Hospital/health care facility
Project type: Addition to existing building
Engineering services: Automation, controls; Electrical, power; Fire, life safety; HVAC, mechanical; Lighting; Energy, sustainability; Plumbing, piping
Project timeline: 2/1/2014 to 11/2/2015
MEP/FP budget: $20,000,000


Phase 1 of Presbyterian Healthcare System’s Rust Medical Center in Albuquerque, N.M., was highly successful. Completed in 2011, this 300,000-sq-ft acute-care hospital and 100,000-sq-ft medical office building were constructed for an overall $300/sq ft, and have achieved exceptional patient-satisfaction ratings and an Energy Star rating of 94.

In 2013 planning began for Phase 2 including 200,000-sq-ft of additional space, 72 private patient beds, a cancer center, and surgery suite addition. Because Phase 1 was so successful, the obvious thinking was to replicate the approach and systems applied during Phase 1. However, that original phase was planned and built during the difficult economic times of 2009 to 2011, and consequently incorporated certain cost-reduction measures that were required at the time but have compromised operational flexibility and will ultimately increase maintenance requirements. The two most significant challenges for Phase 2 were:

  • System upgrades: To convince the project architect and owner’s executive team to invest in mechanical/electrical-system enhancements beyond what was included in Phase 1.
  • Schedule: To complete the project (design, construction, licensing, and move-in) and see the first patient 21 months after notice to proceed.


Fortunately, Presbyterian Healthcare System has a culture of continuous process improvement and was open to sound arguments for upgrades. Ultimately, the following major upgrades were incorporated into Phase 2:

  • Improved electrical system reliability by upgrading the campus distribution system from radial to looped, and the switchgear from single- to double-ended
  • Improved equipment longevity and system reliability by providing penthouses and indoor air-handling units (AHU) in lieu of rooftop AHUs
  • Improved reliability and operational flexibility by interconnecting air-handling systems
  • Moved maintenance activities out of the surgery suite by installing active HVAC components in a penthouse rather than above the surgery suite ceiling
  • Improved patient comfort by upgrading the glazing system to reduce heat loss while maintaining daylighting and views.

To meet the schedule, a construction manager and major subcontractors (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, and controls) were brought on during design and provided design-assist services. The AEC team designed the project using Revit and provided its Revit model to the contractor and subcontractors for their use in preparing shop drawings and coordination drawings. All team members (architect, engineer, construction manager, subcontractors, and owner’s facility personnel) participated in the coordination effort to ensure all systems would be accessible and maintainable.

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