Serving the Intermountain West, the new University of Utah Orthopaedic Center represents the realization of the client's long-time goal—consolidation of its disparate components under one roof to better serve patients. The Center houses: a Biomechanical Research Lab, Orthopedic Surgery, Diagnostic Imaging, Orthopedic Clinics, Physical and Occupational Therapy, Diagnostic Radiography, Resident and Fellow Education space, a Medical Library, and Administrative Offices.

The design considers the aesthetic implications of orthopedic interventions. With respect to the exterior, a central glass spine traverses the length of the building, acting as the structure against which other masses are juxtaposed. The second-floor clinics are housed in metal-clad, saw-toothed masses, indicative of orthopedic injuries. Battered and canted glass walls become identifiable wayfinding landmarks.

Project category: New construction (completed October 2004)

Chief administrator: Harold Dunn, MD, Chairman, Department of Orthopedics, (801) 587-5428

Firm: Architectural Nexus, (801) 924-5000

Design team: Donald Finlayson, Principal-in-Charge; Kenner Kingston, Project Architect; Scott Larkin, Principal Planner; David Cassil, Principal Designer

Photography: ©2005 Dennis Mecham

Total building area (sq. ft.): 105,000

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $190

Total construction cost (excluding land): $20,000,000

The concept also informed the internal healing environments of the building. Inpatient rooms are skewed to improve patient access to daylight and views. Wood-clad walls at reception and registration desks lean and rotate to make themselves known to visitors. Ceilings and soffits interact at nurses' stations to reduce sound transfer.

The biggest drivers of a patient's willingness to “brag about, recommend, or return to” the facility are wait times, parking, and pain management. All measures have improved in a significant manner: Clinic patient volumes have increased by 23%; Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy have increased their patient load by 35%; cycle time (patient check-in to patient check-out) has improved by 29%; and surgery volume is up 11%. In sum, the facility design drives reduced cost, better clinical outcomes, and happier workers and patients.