SAN ANTONIO, Texas — University Health System celebrated the completion of its new million-square-foot Sky Tower, an ambitious expansion and redesign of University Hospital that doubles its size and transforms it into one of the most beautiful and technologically advanced in the nation.
The goal was to create a new University Hospital for the decades ahead, with capacity to serve one of the country’s fastest-growing metro areas. It also had to be designed from top to bottom for the challenges of health reform — providing the highest quality care, as efficiently as possible, and focused on meeting the needs and expectations of its patients.
“University Hospital plays a unique role in Bexar County and throughout South Texas, caring for the sickest and most seriously injured patients,” said George B. Hernández Jr., president and CEO of University Health System. “As a teaching hospital, a referral hospital, a Level I trauma center and a center for innovation, it is a place where the best care is available to all.”
The celebration also marks the completion of University Health System’s $899-million Capital Improvement Project — the largest such project in Bexar County history. Both University Hospital and the historic Robert B. Green Campus downtown underwent a major expansion and renovation under the project.
“We are proud to present the redesigned University Hospital to its owners, the people of Bexar County,” said James Adams, chair of the Bexar County Hospital District Board of Managers, which oversees University Health System. “With the new Sky Tower and the expansion of the Robert B. Green Campus, we have not only improved the delivery of healthcare in our region, but have completed this enormous project on time and within budget — and in the process helped our community weather the economic downturn of recent years through jobs and contracts with local businesses.”
University Health System’s impact on the Bexar County economy has been about $2 billion per year during the Capital Improvement Project, including its normal operations and construction spending, according to a study by the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute for Economic Development. About 68 percent of the total construction dollars spent on both University Hospital and the Robert B. Green Campus went to local businesses and contractors. Thirty-nine percent went to small, minority or women-owned businesses. The rebuilding of University Hospital provided more than 6-million man hours of work — or 700 full-time jobs per year — over the past four years.
The 10-story Sky Tower was designed with patients and families in mind, from spacious private rooms to shaded gardens for respite and fresh air, to on-demand room service and interactive TV entertainment and patient education. More than 1,200 works of art and design enhancements are aimed at promoting healing and hope, and humanizing the high-tech medicine provided there.
It contains a greatly expanded emergency department, 35 surgical suites on two floors and 420 new private rooms — bringing the total throughout the hospital to 716.
The Sky Tower was designed to be environmentally friendly, using nearly a third less energy than a standard building through technology and a sophisticated use of natural and artificial light. Even though the new hospital is twice as large with a third more green space, it will use less fresh water than before. Rainwater will be collected in cisterns for landscaping. And the San Antonio Water System has extended its recycled water lines the hospital for use in landscaping and our central cooling plant. The hospital is seeking LEED Gold designation — a status granted to the Robert B. Green Campus last year.
“When Bexar county commissioners approved this badly needed expansion of University Health System in 2008, it was with the knowledge of how important this institution is to our citizens, whether it’s taking care of thousands of patients with life-threatening injuries, or training hundreds of new doctors each year — many of whom stay here to practice,” said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. “It is critical that the Health System remain a strong and vibrant resource in our community.”
University Hospital was built in 1968 as a key part of a decades-long effort to bring a University of Texas medical school to San Antonio. When state lawmakers finally approved the medical school, it was with the stipulation that a state-of-the-art teaching hospital be built nearby.
It remains the primary teaching partner of the UT Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, training the next generation of health professionals — many of whom stay in San Antonio to practice. Another mission is to help find new and better treatments, with some 500 research studies taking place at any given time — all aimed at improving human health.
University Hospital’s Level I trauma center provides lifesaving care to those within a 22-county region of South Texas, and is the only pediatric trauma and burn center in the region. It is home to the only civilian emergency medicine residency program in the region. It has signature programs in neurosciences, cardiovascular disease, organ transplantation and maternal/fetal medicine.
The joint venture construction management team for the project consisted of Zachry Construction Corporation, J.T. Vaughn Construction, LLC and Layton Construction Co., Inc. Perkins+Will served as architect.