Sky’s the Limit for Walker Engineering’s University Hospital Tower Project

Published: July 16, 2015

It’s not every day that an integrator is heavily involved in the modeling and construction of a building long before the job begins. But that was the case when Walker Engineering took on multiple roles in the development of the new University Health System Sky Tower in San Antonio.

Walker’s network services team, led by Matthew Kenjura, project executive, and Jerry Roskin, senior project manager, served as the technology construction manager and the low-voltage systems installation contractor on the Sky Tower, an $899 million Capital Improvement Project which stands as the largest in the county’s history.

The new wing of the hospital is a 10-story, 1 million-square-foot Level 1 Trauma Center. It includes an expanded emergency department, two floors of surgical suites with 23 Intelligent Surgical Suites and 420 private patient rooms, a main level marketplace and an enormous parking garage.

Photos: Inside the University Hospital Sky Tower Renovation

Over four years, Walker Engineering covered everything from the hospital’s IT infrastructure, audio/visual components and video surveillance to operating room integration and control workflow. Walker’s contract totaled $44 million, $1.2 million of which came from a design-assist role for the hospital’s Intelligent Center for Dispatch, Command and Control. Active equipment and real-time location and radio systems represented about $11 million of the total.

“Approximately 60 percent of the overall network service installations were self-performed by [Walker Engineering] totaling 127,000 man-hours on this project,” says Ryan Schwab, vice president of network services at Walker.

Integrator Takeaways:
1. It’s a blessing, not a curse, to be involved in the early stages of construction.
2. Encourage communication between all parties involved, especially the technology consultant and IT department.
3. An open network infrastructure can save money that can then be invested in better and more evolved technology.

End User Takeaways:
1. Include your integrator early on.
2. Plan ahead. Technology is only improving, and you’ll want to have relevant and evolved technology that will carry you through the next decade.
3. Have your technology consultant speak to your staff and also to the integrator.

Equipment Highlights:
AV: BiAmp, Cisco, Crestron, CineMassive, Dell
Touchpanels: Crestron
Distributed Antenna System: TE Connectivity
EVAC Paging: Bosch
Networking Equipment: Cisco, Motorola

Right from the start, Walker’s team was engaged in the building information modeling (BIM) process. One of the biggest challenges of this huge project was installing highly evolved technology while maintaining harmony with the form, fit and finish of the design and construction of the building.

“Technology systems contractors are not traditionally actively engaged in the BIM process, but because Walker was in such a major role, [the firm was] a very active part of the BIM team, providing modeling, information and systems information to all of the trades, creating as seamless of a project delivery as possible,” says Schwab.

It wasn’t long before the team members realized that their responsibility to be involved from an early stage also gave them unique insight into how important cross-departmental communication really was to the project. The many variables — installing new technology, constructability needs, interoperability mandates, and the eventual training of clinicians on the new technology — necessitated communication between the hospital’s IT and biomedical departments early on.

This communication enabled Walker’s team, with the help of the hospital’s technology consultant, to expand the infrastructure of the Sky Tower to accommodate more advanced technological systems, successfully achieving the goal of the University Health System to embrace new solutions and carry the hospital into the next decade of health care technology.

Because of the open network infrastructure of the new building, the costs saved were able to be invested in better technologies that will benefit not only the bond program funding the construction, but any future operational needs that may arise.

Walker Engineering fully equipped the tower, command center and clinic with AV, distributed antenna systems, EVAC paging and active equipment. Another goal was to improve patient satisfaction and safety while integrating workflow and productivity, and to that end Walker employed presentation technologies for the hospital staff to better communicate between rooms.

Walker also outfitted the new Intelligent Surgical Suites with the ability to seamlessly toggle between virtually any video source in the operating room as well as dynamically route, record and stream any source and control the environment and various surgical devices. Everything is controlled through one touchpanel interface.

The operating room integration also includes a secure, central, IP-based archive for surgical pictures and videos as well as live streaming, allowing surgeons to communicate and consult remotely. In the end, Walker is most proud of its ability to be involved and collaborate on the project from the beginning.

“The key to achieving a world-class medical facility of this degree,” says Schwab, “was through the collaboration of the project delivery team, including the architect, designer, owner, general contractor, sub-contractors and vendors.”

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