United Hospital Emergency Room

Project Profile: United Hospital Emergency Room

Firm name: Michaud Cooley Erickson

Project building name and location: United Hospital Emergency Room, St. Paul, Minn.

Type of building and type of project: Hospital, Expansion/Renovation

Project completion date and project duration: Fall 2011

Engineering challenges and solutions:


Michaud Cooley Erickson (MCE) recently completed work on the United Hospital Emergency Room Expansion & Children’s Hospital Expansion project. This project grew from a single-story emergency room expansion for United Hospital to a six-story, 190,000-sq-ft tower addition to be used by both United and Children’s Hospitals in St. Paul, Minn. In total, the emergency department houses 27 examination rooms, 6 psychiatric rooms, 12 observation rooms, a decontamination area, in-department computed tomography capabilities, and patient care/family areas designed with privacy in mind.

Mechanically, the expansion project was filled with logistical challenges. The initial designs were to create temporary facilities for departments that would be displaced during the construction of the expansion. Due to scheduling around Minnesota winters, the site had to be designed and partially constructed before the building itself could be designed. All of the utilities had to be designed first including storm, sanitary, domestic water, and the heating mains. This presented a design challenge: the core and shell had to be designed first before any detailed planning could be put into place because a hospital requires highly specialized HVAC systems. Because the core and shell required, all the major mechanical infrastructure, the new air handling systems, piping services, and plumbing backbone had to be designed without completed floor plans. As a result, the engineering team had to reuse as much infrastructure as possible.

This required the engineering team to fully evaluate what services and capacities were available for the new expansion. The chilled water plant was particularly challenging because the pneumatic valves had to be replaced while a 700-ton chiller and cooling tower were added. The electrical design also included many challenges. The initial relocation of several departments required the design of electrical services for the displaced departments as well as the extension of critical electrical systems for the temporary emergency department.

Two new medium-voltage feeders had to be routed through the existing facility to the basement of the addition to provide power to the double-ended substation. The design team worked closely with the architect in the early stages of the design to coordinate locations of electrical rooms throughout the facility. Dedicated rooms were provided with power, data, communications, and security. These rooms were aligned vertically in the building to make it easier to extend electrical services and wiring. Bus ducts were also provided in the main electrical room on each floor for the normal, critical, and equipment branches of power.

The design of lighting systems also was a challenge. The need for sufficient lighting for patient and medical functions had to be balanced with the limited W/sq ft allowed by the energy code. Multiple lighting levels were incorporated into all patient spaces, and several different types of light fixtures were incorporated for patient sleeping rooms in the children’s hospital. These fixtures were also provided with multiple controls to allow independent control of exam lighting, patient lighting, and lighting for visiting family members.



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