The South Tower addition to St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, enhances the facility's mission of holistic care with its healing, safety-focused environment that is patient-centered, family friendly, and staff supportive. Blending with the multiple components of the compact medical campus, the expansion is linked to the existing main hospital via a public connector.

The seven-story tower houses a new emergency department, 90 patient beds, and shell space. A dramatic centerpiece atrium lobby emits daylight into the tower's inner core for the benefit of medical staff, patients, and family.

Each of the three completed patient-care floors contains 30 private patient rooms and four patient/family suites. Inboard patient toilets on the corridor walls allow angling of the patient bed toward the window for the benefit of natural light and its positive psychological effect. The angled orientation also affords patient privacy, allows nursing staff to easily get to the headwall for immediate response, and permits ample maneuverability space for equipment.

Integrated design concepts and features contributing to safety and to better patient care include decentralized nursing stations that bring staff closer to patients, ceiling-supported patient lifts, and bedside technology for monitoring patient vitals.

The building is designed for overflows and sharing of staff. Access to everything on the patient floors, each separated into two pods, is bridged. The racetrack-style nursing-workspace cores provide patient privacy and contribute to quietness throughout the units. The pod system allows expansion and contraction of spaces as needed on the patient floors and in the emergency department.

Project category: Addition (completed December 2006)

Chief administrator: Nan Priest, Executive Vice-President and Chief Strategy Officer, St. Vincent's Health System, (205) 939-7249

Firm: Earl Swensson Associates, Inc., (615) 329-9445

Design team: Architecture/Interior Design, Earl Swensson Associates, Inc.; Construction Management, Brasfield & Gorrie; Structural Engineering, LBYD, Inc.; MPE Engineering, Phoenix Design Group, Inc.; Civil Engineering, Walter Schoel Engineering Company, Inc.

Photography: © Kieran Reynolds Photography

Total building area (sq. ft.): 218,950

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $195

Total construction cost (excluding land): $42,600,000