FORT BENNING, Ga. (Feb. 20, 2013) -- Construction on the new hospital is 51 percent complete.

While Martin Army Community Hospital comprises roughly 400,000 square feet, the new facility will span 745,000.

That means an overall increased capacity, said Lt. Col. Ross Davidson, southeast program manager for the Health Facility Planning Agency. And not just more beds but more space for behavior health care, physical therapy, separate out-patient and in-patient areas, adjacent clinics for treating wellness and even more parking.

The hospital will begin opening in the fall of next year with a completion date of Nov. 17, 2014.
"We've already started our initial outfitting and transition activities," Davidson said. "We're giving them the latest and greatest world-class facility."

In the Design

The $364 million facility is the Army's first design-build hospital replacement acquisition strategy.

"Under design-build, we award one contract for the facility rather than a traditional design-bid-build acquisition strategy where there are two contracts -- a design contract and then a follow-on construction contract," Davidson said. "One of the advantages of design-build is its speed. Typically, a hospital replacement of this size would take approximately 10 years under design-bid-build. We'll complete this facility in under seven years from the start of planning and programming to seeing our first patient."

Included in the plans are several features that are part of a concept called evidence-based design. These design elements ultimately improve patient outcomes, reduce stress for staff members and improve overall safety, Davidson said.

"There is no specific design template to follow for evidence-based design per se," he said, "but there is a body of knowledge designers rely on to influence their designs. It's much more adaptive. You're following a protocol based on evidenced research that says, 'Yes, we've done this, we followed this protocol, and this is the outcome that we get.' So you start getting expected outcomes."

One of the more unique instances of evidence-based design is "on-stage, off-stage" walkways. In this design element, corridors are separated into a "customer side of the facility," Davidson said, and a behind-the-scenes side for staff business and transporting supplies.

Other examples of evidence-based design include using natural lighting to illuminate the rooms and building materials that reduce noise.

An emphasis on nature is inherent in the design of the new hospital, Davidson said.

"As opposed to the existing facility, where even the waiting room space, you're in a very sterile environment, here you're going to be distracted with views to nature," he said. "When you go to the upper floors, you don't see anything else around but the woodline. It's really an amazing site selection. To have that respite for patients and staff, I think will be a great boon for everyone."
More green space figures into the facility, with additional outdoor areas, a roof garden, an exterior waterfall and varied healing gardens.

Going Green

It's not just the gardens and lawns that will be green on the new site. Like all new construction on military installations, the hospital is being built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver specifications. Davidson said the hospital has also earned some points toward a gold-level certification.

Water conservation and energy-efficient technology have been incorporated into the plans for the new hospital, Davidson said.

Kyle Reaves, senior project manager with Turner, the contractor for the construction, said consideration of the local environment has also been taken into account.

"We're operating under an erosion-control permit from the state of Georgia," he said. "It's difficult holding your sediments and silts on the side of sandy Georgia mountain. We have all types of engineering pertinences in place to keep the sand from shifting off the mountain into the creek."

Reaves said the largest component of the LEED efforts -- conserving electrical energy for the lifecycle of the building -- will save the government significant money into the future while benefiting the environment.

"That's our main contributor to the environment over the next 50 years," he said, "not burn up a lot of electrical energy, which right now is coal and fossil fuels."

Quality Health Care

It all comes back to providing top notch health care for the Fort Benning community, Davidson said.

Unlike the current facility, built from 1956 to 1958 with add-ons in the '80s, the future hospital will have everything under one roof.

That includes two MRI machines on the second floor. Now, the hospital's single MRI machine is located external to the hospital. It also includes 10 pharmacies -- an additional two from the current site -- and more conference room space.

Davidson said it will even be easier for patients to find their way to the appropriate part of the building. And there's more parking in a covered, tiered garage.

Terry Beckwith, MACH public affairs officer, said the new, state-of-the-art hospital will be geared toward "holistic well-being … body, mind, soul, spirit."

That's apparent not just in the inclusion of more green space, she said, but also how healing will be conducted. There will be a pool for physical therapy and an acupuncturist and massage therapists on-site to provide additional health benefits.

"This is going to be a world-class health care facility," said Alan Bugg, area engineer for Fort Benning with the Corps of Engineers. "In 30 years of working in construction, I've never seen a better team. When I talk about the team, it's the Corps of Engineers, HFPA, the MEDDAC who's occupying the current hospital and the contract. At the end of the day, we all think about that: what are we doing this for? The Soldiers and their Families. That's one of the neat things about the work we do. We know we're leaving a legacy here at Fort Benning."

The next step in the construction process will be moving heating and air into the mechanical space on the third floor. Construction will be completed by May 2014, so staff have time to train at the new site before opening to patients that November.