The University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center at Mission Bay in San Francisco is recognized around the world for its innovative patient care, advanced technology, and pioneering research. When the owners decided to expand its facilities at the Mission Bay site to house its highly regarded cancer, children’s, and women’s programs, they wanted to ensure the building reflected its leading-edge identity—within a reasonable budget. “Cost was one of the biggest challenges on this project,” says Helen Fehr, executive principal of Rutherford + Chekene, the engineer on the project. “We were charged with designing a high-quality, cutting-edge hospital at a below normally accepted cost.”
Fehr’s team considered a variety of design options, and determined that precast concrete was the best choice. “Precast came in as a very economical, durable, and attractive option,” she says.
Within the facility, each center of excellence is separate, but shares a platform of support services and diagnostic treatment spaces arranged along a main spine. For the facade, the designer, Stantec, went with larger precast concrete panels, ranging in size from 4 by 10 feet to 4 by 32 feet (1.2 by 3.0 m to 1.2 by 9.8 m) for fabrication and shipping efficiency, to minimize the number of joints on the building and reduce caulking costs. The L-shaped design feature of the project also precluded horizontal panel joints at the windowsills, requiring the tall skinny elements between the punched windows to be integral with the main portion of the panels. To accommodate these challenges, the team posttensioned the vertical legs so the panels could be able to span from floor to floor. Using specially designed racks to protect them as they were transitioned to the job site, they were then shipped vertically.
Along with being attractive and cost effective, the facade provided the owners with a high-performance, low-maintenance structure that will be able to withstand the roughest conditions and treatment, Fehr says. “While one hopes that the building cladding will not be marred, scratched, or run into with a vehicle, if this does happen, precast concrete is far more resistant to damage than other materials.”
Fehr reports that the project was delivered ahead of schedule by eight days and under budget in August 2014, opening in February 2015, and that everyone involved is pleased with the results. Ultimately, she says, the success was due to teamwork. “I love the fact that all players—owner, design team, and contractor—worked together for the good of the project. Precast concrete is also advantageous for fire and life safety concerns and inherent longevity.”