A topping out ceremony was held in April for the seven-story, 200,000-sq. ft. building.
Having rebounded from a financial crisis that once threatened the company's future, officials with HealthSouth Corporation, Birmingham, Alabama, are celebrating a milestone in the construction of a new $75 million home office in Liberty Park. A topping out ceremony was held in April for the seven-story, 200,000 sq. ft. building, which will provide office space, covered parking, outdoor patios, walking trails and a gym.
“Our company has been described as the 'phoenix rising from the ashes' on multiple occasions, and that is truly because of the company's new chapter, which began in 2004 with a new leadership team,” said Lawrence Whatley, vice president of design and construction of HealthSouth. “While not a new chapter for the company per se, the home office is a much-needed move that will better accommodate our employees' needs to support our steadily growing company.”
HealthSouth, one of the nation's largest health care services providers, was embroiled in a major accounting scandal in 2003. A corporate raid was conducted by the FBI, resulting in a $2.7 billion fraud trial. Founder and CEO Richard Scrushy was ultimately acquitted on all counts, but was later convicted of bribing former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman in a separate case, and was sent to federal prison. Scrushy was terminated by HealthSouth, as part of its recovery.
As the corporation continues moving forward, executives are monitoring progress on the new building, which will be larger than the current headquarters in the Grandview Plaza on U.S. Highway 280.
“The new home office provides work space for our 541 current home office employees, but will allow us to accommodate up to 660 employees,” said Whatley. “The site will accommodate future buildings, as well.
Whatley said providing employees with a comfortable work environment to accomplish their jobs will increase morale in the workplace.
“From analyzing current work spaces and listening to ways we can improve it, we were able to compile a list of needs for the new design,” said Whatley. “We also created employee-led committees who have helped us steer decisions for amenities such as the cafeteria, fitness center, desk chairs, interiors and branding implementation. The finished product will be a place our workforce will have a lot of pride in. The new home office is something our employees are excited about, as it's been designed with them in mind.”
The new facility, situated on five of 20 total acres, will offer a 1/4 mile jogging track, fitness center and will incorporate energy saving technologies to reduce its environmental impact. It also formally recognizes HealthSouth CEO Jay Grinney, who believes keeping the corporate headquarters in Birmingham reaffirms HealthSouth's commitment to the continued growth of the city and region.
“Jay Grinney was instrumental in moving us forward, not only with the new home office, but also as a company during his tenure as chief executive officer,” said Whatley. “We've established 'Jay Grinney Hall,' in his honor.”
Birmingham Mayor William Bell was among the officials on hand for the recent topping out event, where a tour of the first two floors of the new building was provided.
“It was an exciting time to celebrate the halfway point for our new home office with those who have made this project possible,” said Whatley. “This includes the talented workforce at Brasfield & Gorrie, and the many subcontractors who have helped us stay on track for a spring 2018 opening.”
James Decker, project manager of general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie, said the ceremony was a welcome break from the long hours crews are putting in to complete the assignment on time.
“We've been working full-speed to meet the expectations of this project, so it's gratifying to reach this milestone. Celebrating this accomplishment with a good meal and a shared spirit of camaraderie does a lot for the team's morale.”
Decker said the project has not been without its share of concerns.
“We first had to locate and mitigate abandoned mine cavities below the ground surface. Also, the aggressive schedule for completion is challenging,” Decker said.
Work began in June 2016 , with the building set to open its doors next year. Currently, crews are completing the concrete structure, interior metal framing and interior MEP rough-in.
“This work will be followed by installation of the exterior envelope. So far, the site work has proceeded very well. This includes deep foundations and the concrete structure. In addition, the precast parking deck is almost finished.”
Key tasks yet to be carried out include work on the exterior skin, consisting of precast panels, curtain wall and roof, plus interior drywall/finishes. Decker noted that the weather conditions have been challenging, but not extraordinary.
“We've planned for some minor impacts due to the time of year; however, we remain on course for successful completion,” Decker said.
Preparing the property took time, and a good deal of effort.
“The site was covered with trees, which required significant clearing before construction could begin. There also was mass grading to level the ground surface. In addition, a deep foundation system was installed to mitigate underground abandoned coal mines,” Decker said.
To level the site, approximately 45,000 cu. yds. of earth have been removed.
“Site preparation and deep foundations have been the most time-consuming tasks. This work occurred over four months.”
Decker said there are no significant issues related to utilities, as the local companies have been very responsive in coordinating the work as needed. Erosion control and related tasks have been uneventful, as well.
A tower crane and mobile cranes are being used to construct the building, which calls for cast-in-place concrete structure, precast architectural concrete, aluminum-framed glass curtainwall, natural stone finishes, wood veneer millwork and premium tile finishes. The new building was designed using sustainable principles, including intelligent lighting controls with time clock and occupancy sensors and sustainable materials where appropriate. The architecture, design, planning and consulting firm Gensler serves as project architect.
According to Victoria Mayer, “HealthSouth came to Gensler to help them with workplace strategy. We learned they needed a new space that supported their desire to be more collaborative and less siloed. Providing a healthy workspace that increases access to daylight and better ergonomics was also key to the design strategy.
“We had to find the right balance of designing a building that meets HealthSouth's needs for a few years, without oversizing the building,” said Mayer, who noted that the creative team found opportunities to employ sustainable principles into the design, such as using LED lighting and providing access to daylight to as many people as possible.
“We also designed a fitness center with direct access to a beautiful landscaping plan, and a full-service cafeteria plus a coffee bar. A variety of well-equipped meeting spaces allow more flexibility in meeting than their current space. Additionally, all of HealthSouth's employees will be provided sit/stand desks.”
“The architectural expression reflects a human-centered modernism that is purposeful, innovative and compelling,” said James Puckhaber, Gensler architect. “We chose a material palette that's authentic and tactile — exposed concrete, transparent glass, dark granite stone inlay and gray-painted aluminum.”
Puckhaber is confident the building will serve the company well.
“HealthSouth's new space will provide an environment that offers far more flexibility in the working environment than they have today, and will support greater collaboration between departments. HealthSouth is a wellness company, and the new space reflects their brand.”
HealthSouth's portfolio includes a large number of inpatient rehabilitation hospitals and more than 200 home health and hospice agencies across three dozen states and Puerto Rico. It also has several new hospitals under construction, including one in Pelham, Ala.
HealthSouth's move to Liberty Park will take place in spring of 2018.