College of Architecture Texas A&M University


Previous Issue  

Next Issue

College Home

College Calendar

Aggie Daily

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Media contact:  
 Phillip Rollfing  

Skanska design competition

Aggies earn first place honors in Katrina-Inspired Hospital Design Contest


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 Corpus Christi.

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 of Louisiana."

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 disaster."

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 the winners.

"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."

- The End -

^ Back to top

Watch students' winning presentation (Windows Media File):

Large: 320x240
512kbps (8.7 MB)

Small: 160x120

45kbps (936K)

Larger images>>