Sinclair School of Nursing Epitomizes Modern Healthcare Teaching Environment

29 February 2024
Exterior facade of the Sinclair School of Nursing.


When the existing University of Missouri’s Sinclair School of Nursing was built in 1979, teachers lectured in front of chalkboards and students practiced IV sticks on one another. Despite the aging facility, the school has continued to produce leaders in healthcare. But with advances in technology, an urgent need for more nurses nationwide, and a rise in faculty research, the building no longer met the current needs of the program.

After an extensive condition assessment and analysis of cost scenarios, the University elected to demolish the existing School of Nursing and replace it with a more energy efficient building that could handle newer technology.

Opened in 2022, the new 64,585-sf, $30 million steel structured facility now helps nursing students to be fully prepared to enter the healthcare industry. The building features a simulation center, research labs, and mock hospital rooms with AI mannequins and technology to replicate a bedside environment for assessments and interventions. Research and innovation has a dedicated suite for faculty and staff to expand their award-winning research programs.

Prior to the construction of the new Sinclair School of Nursing, hundreds of applicants were turned away due to footprint and capacity of the old building. The efficient layout of the new building allows for flexible programming and class sizes to increase by 25 percent. The school now has the capacity to educate and graduate 40 more nurses on an annual basis.

Building Layout & Design

The new Sinclair School of Nursing needed to be a facility which provided state-of-the-art resources to serve teachers, students, and research missions. With these project goals the structure and layout of the building was developed to provide a highly efficient layout of the building’s space while allowing for future flexibility of the School’s nursing program. 

Additionally, the layout of the building incorporated a bevy of user-friendly public spaces. This allowed for informal gatherings, a display of school achievements, and outdoor areas that connect directly with the interior of the new building.

The existing building’s basement foundation system was used to reduce project costs and led to the concept of an open and sunken courtyard in order to allow natural light into the lower level of the building. The courtyard serves as a flexible open space for students as well as direct access to the new simulation center for use after building hours by students and community programs. To incorporate the sunken courtyard into the design of the site, Walter P Moore coordinated with the design team on the design, layout, and elevations of numerous retaining walls, bench walls, and stairs. Because accessibility for all users was a critical design element of the courtyard, careful planning of layout and elevations during the concept phase was taken to ensure the outdoor area would be accessible from both the interior and exterior of the building. The end result was a series of walls, stairs, and ramps to make up the nine feet of elevation change required. The retaining wall heights were also designed at specific heights above the adjacent surface to add visual appeal and allow natural light for landscaping and visibility within the courtyard area.

“The sunken courtyard does not have an overflow route for stormwater runoff, so the design of the storm sewer system was critical and incorporated redundant inlets to minimize potential inundation issues,” says Dan Brown, senior principal and managing director of civil engineering in Walter P Moore’s Kansas City office.

A series of trench drains captures stormwater runoff along the ramps so it can enter the underground piping system before it reaches the bottom of the courtyard. The bottom of the courtyard was carefully graded to meet accessibility requirements while also providing positive drainage to a trench drain which serves as the primary inlet. A secondary inlet structure was incorporated as a redundant component, and the exiting stormwater piping was oversize to accommodate larger design storm events.

Furthermore, because the school is connected to the adjacent seven story building, finished floor elevations as well as floor to floor heights were critical to allow for connectivity between the new building and the existing School of Medicine. The finished floor elevations also had to consider the existing topography adjacent to the new building to allow for pedestrian access as well as maintenance and emergency vehicles. The end result was a building with multiple accessible entrances which blends into the existing campus topography and sidewalk system.  

The University also wanted to upgrade the water distribution system within the project limits, which resulted in a total replacement of the system with a new, larger pipe system and additional fire hydrants. Establishing the location of the new system proved to be a challenge as the existing water system had to remain in service and many other critical existing utilities created potential conflicts. Chilled water systems, active and abandoned electrical duct banks, storm sewers, site lighting, irrigation controllers, and steam tunnels all had to be researched and located in order to identify a corridor for the new water system piping.

Civil Engineering & Architecture

International Architects Atelier was well versed in integrating civil engineering design elements into the overall design scheme during the planning and concept phases of projects. For example, instead of placing the building entrance in the center of the front of the building, it was located at the corner of the structure in order to accommodate the existing pedestrian paths within the campus, and this location was highlighted in the architectural design with a large overhang which projected out over the entry.

Walter P Moore’s familiarity with the campus and the University’s standards and preferences saved valuable time and money during construction. By incorporating this background knowledge into the earlier design phases, we were able to avoid potential problems and issues such as utility conflicts, schedule delays, and work around valuable mature trees on the campus. Ultimately, this information sharing between the building team members ensured the Sinclair School of Nursing would be completed on time and according to budget.

External Project Team

Owner: University of Missouri – Columbia
Civil Engineer: Walter P Moore
Architect: International Architects Atelier and HGA
Structural Engineer: HGA
MEP Engineer: W.L. Cassell & Associates
Mechanical Engineer-Steam: Rogers-Schmidt Engineering

Internal Project Team

Principal in Charge: Dan Brown
Project Manager/Engineer: Michael Haake
CAD Manager: David Brown

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