Designs by four Texas A&M University architecture students
for short- and long-term emergency healthcare facilities to serve
post-Katrina New Orleans earned first place honors in an exclusive
competition sponsored by Skanska USA Building Inc., one of the
nation's leading healthcare facility design and construction companies.
Skanska officials flew into College Station on Thursday (Jan.
19) to present the award, including $5,000, in a special ceremony
at the College of Architecture.
The winning entry included recovery solutions for the Medical
Center of Louisiana at New Orleans, which had been rendered inoperable
by the storm. The team's primary goal was providing fast and
available healthcare facilities. Their immediate solution entailed
the construction and placement of a network of specially designed
modular clinics to temporarily replace the center's Charity and
University hospitals. The team's long-range plans called for
the construction of a new hospital especially equipped to deal
with disaster response.
The students, all seniors, are Ashley Dias and Lauren Johnson
of Dallas, Elisha Killgore of Henderson, and Jackie Russel of
They competed by invitation against three other teams from the
University of Washington - Seattle.
Advising the students in Skanska's University Grant Project
Competition were P.K. Carlton, director of the Texas A&M
University System Health Science Center, Office of Homeland Security;
George J. Mann, the Ronald L. Skaggs Endowed Professor of Health
Facilities Design; Joseph J. McGraw, former director of planning
for Kuwait University's Health Science Center and professor emeritus
in the Department of Architecture; and former Texas A&M student
Sal Caserta '91, a New Orleans evacuee.
"The students were emotionally struck by Katrina's devastation
and decided to do something about it," said Mann, who directed
the project. "In presenting the award, Skanska recognized
the very real contribution these students have made to the people
Mann said the College of Architecture at Texas A&M was invited
to participate in the closed competition "because of its
longstanding commitment and reputation for improving Architecture
for Health." The competition, which actually began before
the Katrina disaster, allowed the students 45 days "and
considerable freedom" to develop and complete their projects.
"Deciding on the solutions for this project was quite a
task," explained team member Elisha Killgore. "Before
the hurricane, we originally chose the topic, 'Managing Emergency
Department Overcrowding.' After the storm, our solutions quickly
evolved, but remained relevant to any hospital devastated by
All four team members had previously worked with Mann on "surge
hospital" designs as part of a 2004 architecture-for-health
studio project that was ultimately reviewed by U.S. Surgeon General
Richard H. Carmona. The surge hospital concept, conceived by
P.K. Carlton, involves the transformation of existing structures,
such as hotels, convention centers or public schools, into fully
functional medical facilities in the event of disasters that
overwhelm or incapacitate existing health care centers.
As the students' focus moved to Katrina relief last September,
Carlton, who is also a pilot, flew the A&M team to Baton
Rouge, where they met with officials from the Louisiana Health
Care Services Division to discuss the state's immediate and long-range
medical space needs.
"We saw first hand the disorder and confusion the state
was experiencing due to the hurricane," said Russel. "The
meeting showed us the urgency for an immediate solution and also
emphasized the importance of future disaster planning."
"The chance to go to Baton Rouge gave us the encouragement
and excitement that fueled our drive for the project," added
Johnson. "We were determined to find a creative answer to
problems, such as a hurricane, that can happen at anytime."
In response to their meeting with state officials, the team
developed a two-phased response: first, to deploy modular medical
units integrated with mobile units throughout New Orleans and
second, to eventually demolish the Charity Hospital in New Orleans
and replace it with a new modern state-of-the-art facility.
Further, because New Orleans will always be susceptible to flooding,
the team elevated the proposed "New Charity Hospital" site
topography an additional 14 feet and located mechanical space
and emergency generators on the roof. The top floor was designed
with wells containing spotlights to help visually identify the
building from a great distance. Additionally, a significant amount
of the site was dedicated to a "wellness" park with
extensive landscaping, water elements and seating areas that
could be quickly transformed for surge capacity if required.
"I definitely feel that our integrated modular unit with
the mobile medical truck can be used anywhere," said Russel. "The
concept of decentralizing medical care and distributing it throughout
the city can be applied to any city."
"During all my years of teaching I have never seen any
higher level of collaborative creativity and effort than this
team exhibited in providing a very practical, flexible, and feasible
solution to satisfy the immediate and long-term medical needs
of people of the New Orleans metro area," said McGraw. "The
many social, political, physical and economic challenges explicit
and implicit in the planning and design of replacing Charity
Hospital, a regional icon regarding health for the working poor
and less fortunate, were met with due regard and surpassed, by
this team of very talented students."
Skanska USA Building Inc. is a leading national and local provider
of construction management, pre-construction consulting, general
contracting, design-build and pharmaceutical validation services
to a broad range of U.S. industries, including healthcare, pharmaceutical
and biopharmaceutical, educational, high-tech, aviation, transportation
and sports and entertainment. The company, part of the Skanska
AB global group of companies, is headquartered in Parsippany,
New Jersey, and has approximately 4,100 employees. Engineering
News Record ranked the firm as the nation's number one builder
of healthcare and hospital facilities.
Skanska's University Grant Project Competition was created to
foster the relationship between education and industry, to further
develop opportunities offered in construction, and better prepare
tomorrow's professionals. The company plans to expand the competition
next year by including further development opportunities for
"Participating in the Skanska design competition was an
exceptional learning experience," said Dias. "The company
afforded us the opportunity to explore architecture for health
while applying our solution to an evolving catastrophe in a city
desperate for new ideas."