VCU Wonder Tower Wins 2024 ACEC Engineering Excellence Award

15 May 2024
06 Photo 2 VCU Wonder Tower

ACEC recognizes Wonder Tower at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, which required horizontal and vertical expansions, and was the first major project in Richmond to meet Virginia’s new seismic codes.


The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) has named the Wonder Tower at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University as a Grand Award winner of its 2024 National Engineering Excellence Awards in the Structural Systems category. 

The Children’s Hospital of Richmond (CHoR) at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), the region’s only comprehensive pediatric hospital, recently completed construction of the 560,000-sf Wonder Tower to provide emergency, trauma, and inpatient care services in one state-of-the-art, kid-friendly facility. The project includes a 280-foot-long enclosed pedestrian skybridge that spans over one of the city’s busiest intersections to connect to the VCU Medical Center Main Hospital. Located in Richmond’s downtown district, Wonder Tower is situated on a confined site within VCU’s medical center and academic campus. 

Constructed overtop and alongside CHoR’s existing outpatient pavilion, the horizontal and vertical expansion presented several engineering challenges. These challenges demanded creativity and teamwork to meet the owner and community’s needs. The entrant, structural engineers Dunbar and Walter P Moore, integrated engineering ingenuity with extraordinary client experience to navigate a myriad of complex site logistics and stringent new seismic design requirements to bring this transformative asset to life.

The structural engineers exemplified engineering excellence to deliver the first major project in Richmond that incorporates Virginia’s rigorous new seismic design code. Additional engineering challenges included designing the innovative new tower on a confined urban site while keeping the adjacent hospital buildings operational and minimizing disruptions to surrounding vehicle and pedestrian traffic. The entrant exceeded the typical scope of a structural engineer and adopted a leadership role by planning and coordinating the hospital structure and connecting skybridge, keeping the project on schedule while allowing the architect and owner to focus on vital programmatic decisions. The structural engineers solved additional engineering challenges like designing for efficient constructability in coordination with road closures; tying into existing hospital facilities; securing local code variances for the bridge; and navigating strict vibration requirements for the neighboring medical, academic, and historic government buildings. 

The entrant’s resourcefulness and commitment to teamwork ensured Wonder Tower was completed on schedule and without disruption to the surrounding area. Seamlessly tied into CHoR’s outpatient pavilion, the combined building space occupies a full city block and totals more than one million square feet. VCU and ChoR have delivered outstanding healthcare services to central Virginia for decades. As they modernize and consolidate their medical center facilities, the systems continue to improve patient experience and attract top talent. When the hospital opened its doors in April 2023, the facility was met with accolades from patients, staff, and the greater Richmond community. This colorful addition to the city’s skyline cements CHoR and VCU’s commitment to bringing accessible, world-class pediatric healthcare services to Virginia’s fastest-growing region.

06 Photo 1 VCU Wonder Tower

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