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Project's Sixth Year
CRC Now Enclosed in Brick, Due for Occupancy in 2004

By Rich McManus

Photos by Ernie Branson

On the Front Page...

A building is big when you can't see it in one glance, but must crane your neck to take it all in. The new Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center, begun in 1997 and recently enclosed in pink brick, is a big building. And a complicated one. Now about 80 percent finished, with construction due to conclude in March 2004 and occupancy to commence a month later, the project is at peak employment with respect to trades; some 600-700 workers are onsite daily, said Yong-Duk Chyun, project director for the Office of Research Services. "The exterior masonry is all done, all the windows are in and the interior is advancing rapidly," he said.


Project Director Yong-Duk Chyun at CRC's front entrance.

Composed of two broad, parallel "bars" — the North Bar and the South Bar — connected in the middle by a 9-story Science Court, the CRC hosts a program that has shrunk somewhat from its original conception as a 250-bed hospital with 100 day stations (by design, inpatient beds and day stations are interchangeable) to a 240-bed facility with 90 day stations, owing to budget concerns. And the initially elaborate Science Court plan, which featured a dramatic "double helix" staircase, has also yielded to budget pressure. But those changes were absorbed relatively easily (if not with any pleasure) due to the malleable nature of the building's design, Chyun noted.

"We made those changes with a great deal of reluctance," he said, "but the beauty of the facility is that it is very flexible."

The North Bar (the part closest to the Children's Inn) is 6 stories high (3 occupied levels and 3 interstitial levels, which host mechanical systems such as air handling and telecommunications) and will contain solely clinic space. Consultants are already planning for the interior of this segment, including furniture and equipment. The clinical programs that will occupy the North Bar have long known where their space would be. The broader South Bar (the part closest to old Bldg. 10) is taller, at 8 stories (4 occupied levels and 4 interstitial levels), and contains two clinic blocks, directly parallel to the North Bar's clinic blocks, as well as laboratory blocks at the extreme east and west ends (see drawing for occupancy information). The glass-enclosed Science Court will be the last segment completed next year.

A massive column of steel scaffolding fills the 9-story Science Court as workers install its roof.

"The builder should start turning [completed] blocks over to us by this fall," Chyun said. He adds, "Unlike the Clinical Center, space within the CRC is assigned to programs rather than to institutes."

As the snows of February were receding, the construction trailers that had long occupied the northern lip of the construction site were due for removal (the trailers used to be emblazoned with the name of original construction manager McCarthy Bros., which ceded the job to Centex in the spring of 2001 following contractual difficulties). And Chyun was preparing to build an underground stormwater management facility for the CRC at a site near the corner of Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane. This 6-month project must be complete before the CRC can open, he said.

Air vents on an interstitial level poke through floor into ceilings of rooms below, and can be moved along a slot.

Chyun was also busy giving tours of the new facility; visitors from NIH and other major medical centers, as well as construction authorities, have queued up to see for themselves the building's special features (see sidebar).

The CRC was originally due for completion at the end of 2001, then adjusted to 2002, but encountered a sea change in the economic climate as the local construction market went from cool to red hot during 1999-2001, said Chyun. In a hot market, big, complicated, risky projects such as the CRC don't appeal to builders nearly as much as smaller, simpler jobs, he explained; bidders simply weren't interested in the CRC — "They'd rather do easier, quicker work." There were times when NIH literally had to decide whether to keep going or put the project on hold, he related, but NIH leadership always pressed forward. Despite slowdowns, the project will still be finished faster than if it were done in a conventional "design-bid-build" format, Chyun said. The project is only 15 months past the adjusted estimate of its completion date.

As for the "old Bldg. 10," a revitalization program is under review. "NIH and HHS leadership are carrying out discussions concerning various options for the programmatic and technical solutions for the research programs currently occupying the old hospital building," said ORS Director Steve Ficca.

A Peek Inside the New CRC

A 3-inch seam, or construction joint, is all that separates the Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center from the ACRF. The joint marries the two structures all the way up to the 14th floor, in a building segment called the "mask," which allows passage from old hospital to new. Walk through a gray metal door in the elevator lobby on the first floor of the ACRF's north side, and suddenly you are within cavernous new space somewhat reminiscent of the Visitor Information Center in Bldg. 10 — a large, open atrium lit by skylights and soon to be decorated in a style similar to the South Entry of Bldg. 10. The floor level of the atrium is at the current P1 garage level, which will become the main patient parking area once the CRC opens.

"It's going to be a very nice space," said Yong-Duk Chyun, CRC project director. "[Clinical Center director] Dr. John Gallin identified the need for a welcoming space for patients and visitors as they arrive in the garage. He is very excited about it."

The open, skylit atrium being worked on above will eventually offer a welcome to patients arriving at the CRC from the P1 parking level, which will be reserved for patients.

A bank of six new elevators adjacent to this reception area will whisk passengers from any floor in the ACRF to the new CRC, which will have a total of 32 elevators.

Proceeding past the reception area, one enters the building's most dramatic feature, a 9-story Science Court enclosed on the east and west sides by glass. At the moment, it is a warren of scaffolding as workers put the ceiling in, and birds fly from bar to bar, but it will eventually become a light-filled space flanked by stores on its first floor (requests for proposals for the retail space are already being prepared), and by airy walkways for 7 of its 9 levels. Two more sets of elevators, on the north and south sides of the court, will speed passage within the building. Outdoors, on either side of the Science Court, will be large courtyards to be planted with tall trees near the center, and flowering trees nearer the hospital's first floor windows, to add a measure of visual privacy, Chyun said.

Some space within the CRC already has more of a "finished" look. Interior work is proceeding rapidly.

Just past the Science Court, as one walks north toward the front of the hospital, is another large, 2-story reception area, to be enclosed along its front by glass. Outside, a freestanding metal canopy will protect vehicles approaching the CRC's front door. As with the South Entry, a huge revolving door will offer access to the building.

The major occupants of the CRC's first floor will be the admissions department, pharmacy, a rehabilitation medicine area and pediatric patient care units with an outdoor playground nearby.

Upstairs, some general themes govern how space is used, Chyun explained. Each floor of the building's four patient-care "blocks" (totaling 14 floor plates) contains 24 patient room modules, 12 on each side of the central support areas. Patient rooms enjoy the window side of clinic blocks, while support space is located internally. The patient room modules can be grouped into multiple sub-areas of the patient care unit, based on the kind of care needed. On some floors, two or six nursing stations might serve the whole unit, while on others such as the intensive care unit, eight large nursing stations are designed to be proximal to every room.

Other Building Features

There are several sets of bridges at the CRC; two bridges, on the east and west sides on the fifth floor level, connect the South Bar with old Bldg. 10. These are the longest bridges in the project, and are simply unadorned passageways offering great views. (Pedestrians will soon recognize that the views to the west are merely of housetops, while the views to the east are considerably more vast; the land on which the CRC is built slopes downward more than 25 feet from west to east.) The South Bar also connects with Bldg. 10 on floors 1 and 2.

A second set of shorter bridges connects each adjacent floor of the North and South Bars, again on the east and west sides of the hospital. These bridges have widened midsections where people can lounge and enjoy the views of the courtyard and beyond; Chyun labels it "respite space."

Other areas especially designed to encourage human interaction are the open stairwells where patient care, or clinic, blocks meet laboratory blocks.

The interstitial levels between occupied floors are interesting because virtually everything in them hangs from the ceiling, including the floor, which is made of a special lightweight concrete in all but the rooms dedicated to telecommunications equipment, which requires a heavier floor. A penetrable slot running the length of the floor of the interstitial level allows mechanics to move or service the utilities serving the rooms below.

Down in the basement is the hospital's only sign of heavy industry. "There is only one real 'basement' level," Chyun explains. Because of the way the land slopes, there is a B3 basement level on only one side of the CRC; the B2 level — the main basement containing the major mechanical systems — is two stories tall, topped by a B1 interstitial level. The B2 level is rimmed by a perimeter walkway, soon to be busy with the traffic of electric carts. Within the space are huge chilled water and steam pipes, air handlers, valves and generators. NIH engineer Farhad Memarzadeh had the brilliant idea of substituting turbine-powered generators for pressure-reducing valves from the steam lines, Chyun said; the result is that the new building generates about 5 percent of its own electricity needs, potentially saving more than $170,000 annually in electricity costs. A visiting engineer remarked, "This is truly one of a kind — more of a power plant than a building mechanical area."

The mechanical area on the B2 level contains an array of building systems, including an ingenious method of using steam turbines to generate a percentage of the CRC's electricity.

Other notable spaces include an entire third floor devoted to oncology (one room of which is already complete — it's a mockup for tradesmen that, once complete, will serve as the standard for every other room of its kind in the CRC. "It allows the kinks to be worked out before mass production starts," Chyun noted.); a floor devoted to patients with behavioral problems that features no hallway corners (from which patients could potentially jump out and surprise caregivers) and whose rooms have hardened ceilings (to thwart deliberate hangings), breakable curtain rods in showers (same reason), and no lab gases (oxygen, carbon dioxide, etc.) built into the walls; and a chapel on the top floor of the North Bar lit by both skylights and a large, vertical window located directly behind the altar. The chapel ceiling slants upward toward the front of the hospital, and large conference areas abut the chapel on the east and west sides.

Because of budget concerns, some segments of the CRC are being built as "shell space," or unfinished areas, Chyun said. However, scientific programs to fill these areas are currently being identified.

Throughout all of the CRC, air will be brought in entirely from outdoors, with no recirculation, making it the only hospital in the United States reliant on 100 percent "outside air." This is a more expensive method than called for by code, which permits 60 percent recirculation of air in hospital settings. Chyun says many hospitals overseas have adopted the "100 percent outside air" policy to reduce the threat of accidental spread of unknown pathogens, and predicts it will eventually become the standard in this country.

Interestingly, owing to concerns about air quality informed by wind testing, the CRC will include no rooftop solaria, which were a feature of old Bldg. 10. Tests showed that gases exhausted through rooftop vents might blow into such areas, putting people at risk.

Chyun also noted that once the CRC opens, the connections to the ACRF won't function on all floors until some method of standardization can be found; at the moment, the connecting areas are a haphazard collection of clinics, closets and corridors.

CRC Clinic Occupancy by Level

Pediatric Care Patient Care Unit (PCU)
Rehabilitation Medicine
North Pediatric Behavioral PCU
South Admissions
North Alcohol PCU
South Pharmacy
Surgical Oncology PCU
Hematology-Oncology PCU
Critical Care
Hem/Onc Day Hospital
General Medicine PCU
Cardio/Pulmonary Procedures
Director's Reserve
Surgery PCU/Med-Surgical Day Hospital
Neurology PCU/Testing/Clinic & Sleep Lab
Adult Behavioral and Geriatric PCU

A bird's-eye view of the new Clinical Research Center clearly shows the south and north "bars."

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