No matter who you talk to in Memphis, Tennessee, chances are their life or a family member's life has been touched by Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. Founded in the 1950s, it was the result of the initiative of a group of women who advocated for children to have a special place to receive medical care. The children's hospital's mission is to accept any child in the community who needs treatment, regardless of their family's financial status.

With a new $340-million replacement hospital planned, a broad fundraising effort was initiated in Memphis. To date, nearly $105 million has been raised, making the Le Bonheur campaign the largest in the city's history. Contributions came from all constituencies, including young children who donated pennies through their schools to corporations, which in turn made large contributions to the campaign. Yet it is important to keep in mind that Le Bonheur's reach goes well beyond the Mid-South region. Every year, more than 135,000 children from all 50 states and throughout the world are treated there.

Doing what's right for the kids

The new Le Bonheur Children's Hospital will take the organization well into the 21st century. The 12-story, 613,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility includes 255 hospital beds with dedicated units for pediatric intensive care and cardiovascular intensive care. It also has 60 neonatal intensive care private rooms, including several rooms for twins or triplets.

In keeping with research that shows patients recover more quickly from illness when cared for in a private room surrounded by family and friends, all patient rooms allow two parents to stay overnight. Even the intensive care unit accommodates family members, allowing them to be part of the healing process.

All diagnostic and treatment services, including a 14-room surgical suite, a two-room hybrid cardiac catheterization laboratory, an interventional radiology suite, and an endoscopy suite, are located in the new building. Keeping in mind the young age and the fragility of the patients, a 3T intraoperative MRI (IMRI) was incorporated into one surgical suite, providing neurosurgeons high-resolution images of the brain before, during, and after surgery. The IMRI moves on a massive overhead beam between an operating room and diagnostic facility so the child never has to leave the operating table. A 320-slice CT scanner, one of the most advanced scanners available, is also part of the latest technology in the new facility. Traditional, older scanners only show a 16-slice view; the new equipment now gives physicians the ability to view 320 cross sections as opposed to the 16 slices.

Prior to the start of construction, Le Bonheur's emergency department was treating approximately 70,000 cases annually-about twice as many as it had been designed to accommodate. The emergency department of the new facility was built to handle expected patient volumes beyond 2014.

On the fast track for families

Work on the new hospital began in February 2008. By May, demolition of the old facility was complete. Patients were moved into the new building in early December 2010. The quick turnaround was due in large part to the use of fast-tracking, an approach that allows construction to begin in anticipation of specific design phases, making necessary adjustments if parameters change along the way.

To make sure the new hospital truly responds to the needs of families, FKP Architects worked closely with the Le Bonheur's Family Partners' Council and Teen Advisory Council. As a result, many family-friendly touches were incorporated throughout the building. It features a mini movie theater that shows films on public release dates, providing family members and recovering patients a chance to chill out. Playroom and family spaces on every floor give parents the opportunity to spend quality time with their child. A family training center provides new parents with the skills they need to care for their children before leaving the hospital.

Since the hospital is built for children and families, the facility is filled with artwork by local children. About half of the displays are interactive in order to allow children hands-on experience with the art. Art contributors ranged from local children to nationally recognized artists. Art was also used as a tool for fund-raising, as donations were made to underwrite art that would remain in the hospital.

Keeping it green

The lush landscaping at the hospital entrance underlines the fact that Le Bonheur will be one of a few LEED Silver certified children's hospitals in the United States (certification is pending). In addition to energy-efficient construction and low-VOC products-sealants, paints, and carpets that promote indoor air quality-the space was designed to make maximum use of daylighting opportunities, as natural light plays an integral role in patient health. Low-level interactive lighting also reduces power consumption and helped with vision enhancement for workers on site during construction. The hospital's exterior features light-colored roofing material and low-E window film to reduce solar heat gain. Other sustainable elements include HVAC systems designed for maximum efficiency and reuse and recovery of energy. A modular central energy plant, one of the first of its kind in the United States designed by Johnson Controls, saves energy and space, and provides for future expansion.

Now that the new facility is complete, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, with its 1-million-square-foot campus, is one of the most technologically advanced hospitals in the world. The state-of-the-art facility is expected to serve the community for the next 50 years. According to President and CEO Meri Armour, MSN/MBA, “Our physicians and staff provide excellent care to our patients. This new hospital allows Le Bonheur to continue to advocate for children for years to come.” HCD

Lighthouse on the construction site

Construction of the new Le Bonheur Children's Hospital is not only benefitting the children who are being treated there. It also has provided valuable career opportunities for members of the Lighthouse Missions Ministries' Nehemiah Program. Its vice president, Pastor Christopher Coates, approached Skanska and convinced local management to give recovering drug addicts a chance to both gain confidence in themselves and prove their sense of responsibility by taking on temporary work assignments on the construction site.

One member, Randy Avery, used that opportunity to complete his 30-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration training. Skanska staff members volunteered weekend time to offer the training, graduating 14 people from the program. This qualification, as well as hands-on work experience, has provided program participants with an important edge in today's highly competitive labor market. Avery is one example. He recently started a job with a local plumbing company.

Mike Rayburn is a Project Executive with Skanska USA in Memphis, Tennessee. Skanska served as construction manager on the Le Bonheur project. Healthcare Design 2011 March;11(3):46-50