The new structure will include a focus on neurorehabilitation for patients following stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury.
(Steve Wood photo)
Expected to open in 2025, a new Spain Rehabilitation Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) will provide comprehensive care to patients from across the state and beyond.
Located on Seventh Avenue South, the $157 million, 350,000-sq.-ft. project that's currently under construction will replace the existing 60-year-old facility.
"UAB Spain Rehabilitation is the hub for UAB Medicine's Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems and the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Data Center," said Jeanette Ray, associate vice president, UAB Medicine Rehabilitation Services. "The new facility will continue to serve these patient populations in the areas of service, research and teaching and help those with acquired disabilities have a more functional and productive life. Most importantly, this new space will promote a healing and calming environment for rehabilitation patients to thrive."
Ray noted that UAB Spain Rehabilitation Center is one of the Southeast's leading providers of physical medicine and rehabilitation services consistently ranked among the Top 20 in the Nation by US News and World Report.
"This facility will match the world-class care provided by our team of specialists to improve the long-term function and quality of life for patients with an injury or disability."
The building will offer approximately 80 rehabilitation beds, 28 acute care beds and advanced technology. The new structure will include a focus on neurorehabilitation for patients following stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. It also will include a seizure monitoring unit that offers clinical, research and education services to patients with epilepsy.
"Although multiple renovations have been made throughout the years, this new building will allow us to build upon and maximize UAB Medicine's commitment to providing patient-centered care," said Vu Nguyen, chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine. "We are looking forward to welcoming our patients and their caretakers to this new rehab facility."
Each floor is designed to treat specific patient populations, allowing for patients, families and care team members to remain in the same location. This maintains the proper support for physical, mental and emotional recovery.
The facility also will include family rooms on each patient floor, a respite room featuring a patient art gallery and two outdoor terraces. The top floor will feature a garden where patients can work on mobility, cognition and range of motion. The bottom floor will offer a park for patients to practice navigating different terrains.
UAB broke ground on the replacement facility in early May 2022. Jared Sparks, the director of facilities and capital projects, said that the project location is less than ideal for crews.
"One of the biggest challenges on a project of this nature is that construction is taking place in a very congested site in an urban downtown setting. Prior to construction, this site served as surface parking lots for UAB faculty, staff and patients."
A significant amount of work remains, with construction continuing at a steady pace.
"A milestone we have reached is that the deep foundations are complete," said Sparks.
Hoar Construction LLC serves as the general contractor. According to Hoar Senior Project Manager Greg Cross, work began in early June 2022.
"Currently, we're forming the concrete structure," he said. "The remaining significant tasks include 11 stories of structure, building skin and the buildout of the interior."
To date, crews have completed underground caissons, relocated 70 percent of the utilities, performed 75 percent of the necessary grading and nearly all the foundations and the first level columns.
Site work has included removal and demolition of the existing paving, concrete and some utilities.
Cross noted that underground utilities have been a unique challenge for workers.
"This site has been used for a variety of purposes and has been built on multiple times over the past 60-80 years, so there were unforeseen utilities and existing foundations we uncovered and had to remove," he said. "Additionally, the site has basically no lay down for materials and equipment, so we have to create precise logistical plans for materials deliveries. Building the exterior skin will also be a challenge, due to this limited access."
Approximately 3,500 cu. yds. of dirt will be moved during construction. Demolition included concrete paving, concrete sidewalks, landscaping, curbs, bollards, storm lines, light poles, fencing and concrete walls.
Because the site is not very large and is flat, erosion control has been fairly simple.
"We kept the asphalt in place during the installation of deep foundations to help address erosion," said Cross, who added that a great deal of planning was required before work began. "Access is always key in building a rehab or medical facility. We have to ensure these areas are safe for all future patients. And like any healthcare project, quality of the finished product is one of our highest priorities, as is coming in on time and on budget."
Other than site conditions, freezing temperatures and rain from December 2022 through February 2023 have been an issue for workers.
"We have lost a few weeks due to weather," said Cross.
Main materials required to complete the project include concrete, steel, metal panels and glass. A mix of heavy equipment also is required.
"We're using tower cranes for lifting and forming and pouring the structure, drill rigs for caissons, concrete pump trucks, grading equipment and forklifts."
For Cross and his team, it's an honor to be involved in a project that will serve countless individuals.
"Hoar Construction has over 30 years of experience dedicated solely to healthcare construction, along with our over 80 years of experience in a wide variety of sectors," he said. "Many of our healthcare clients are long-term partners because of our solid relationships, attention to detail and precise planning. "Our healthcare teams understand quality and safety are of the utmost priority on projects such as this, and we have the processes in place to ensure the project meets our client's goals. One of the best parts of working in healthcare construction is knowing that we're helping make a positive impact on the community. Working on a project so close to home, and with a key client like UAB, we can be really proud of the facility and the work we've done in Birmingham." CEG
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