Texas Children’s Hospital Pavilion for Women

Smooth Delivery: A New Addition for One of the Nation's Best


Location:   Houston, TX
Client:   Texas Children’s Hospital
Completed:   2011
Size:   1.3 million sf, 16 stories, 141 patient beds; 980-car garage; 550-ft long pedestrian bridge
Budget:   $575 million
Services:   Civil, Traffic, Structural Engineering, Parking Consulting
Certification:   LEED Silver
Architect:   FKP Architects


Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) is ranked as one of the top 10 pediatric hospitals in the nation. In adding The Pavilion for Women, it realized its goal of providing a “full continuum” of health care not only for newborns and children but also for women. Walter P Moore’s decades-long history with TCH made us a logical choice for this major expansion in the Texas Medical Center (TMC) in Houston. Working with the design and construction team and stakeholders, we helped bring this vision to life through careful collaboration and judicious use of Building Information Modeling (BIM).

The design and engineering challenges were complex, beginning with a constrained site and carrying through a four-level underground parking garage and two-story pedestrian bridge. The bridge was to serve as The Pavilion and TCHs’ signature.

In a Tight Place
The Pavilion for Women had to be constructed as close to the surrounding buildings and transit ways as possible. To keep from compromising the structural integrity of an immediate neighbor—which had no basement—a berm was put in place for bracing. This was essential, since excavation for the parking garage would go down several feet. Construction was sequenced from the opposite side of the site. As it advanced from four levels down to grade level, braces were placed between the piers and new construction. The berm was taken out. The braces were incorporated into the garage’s underground structure. Nothing was compromised.

TCH is located in a floodplain. So is The Pavilion. Both had to meet Houston’s 500-year-flood rule for “critical facilities.” Nor did the challenges end here. In addition to multiple easements, the site was crisscrossed by parallel METRO rail lines, utilities, and a major traffic artery. And even though construction had to be sequenced, staged, and performed onsite, ongoing hospital operations necessitated minimal disruption. Communication between members of the building team, as well as stakeholders, had to be flawless.

BIMing a Path to Decision-Making 
We initiated an overall Building Information Modeling (BIM) team-review process at the outset. The design and building team and stakeholders (TCH, the City, METRO, and TMC) were visually informed start to finish. We engineered The Pavilion’s structure in two separate sections, one below grade, one above. The BIM platform allowed us to review design for structural conflicts. It also defined for us underground utility routes in the public right-of-way and ensured constructability of the pedestrian bridge over the light-rail electrical catenary cables. Among the many issues we resolved using BIM were: an onsite city water line; utility easements; staging-area dewatering; additions of an onsite drainage system, underground electrical service, and new utility service connections; onsite grading; ADA access paths; and traffic signalization.

The pedestrian bridge’s aesthetics were top-of-mind. For the elliptical “C”-shaped bridge, the equivalent of about two city blocks in length, the client chose a “Vierendeel” truss system. Unlike the more common triangulated truss, the Vierendeel’s box shape gives the bridge a more elegant, finished look. The bridge is supported at only four points some 200 feet apart, minimizing added ground-level obstructions.

Critical Facilities Make Access Critical
Access to The Pavilion was made all the more critical because of the area’s potential for flooding. We placed all building entrances, including those to the garage, a minimum of 12” above the 500-year flood zone. Grading for driveways, drop-offs, and service docks raised entry points as well, while meeting accessibility standards. Of course, day-to-day accessibility depends on parking. The Pavilion’s parking garage serves nearly a thousand doctors, staff, patients, visitors, and a valet center. To speed ingress-egress, we designed the valet center with an internal street system, valet-only return ramp, curbside operations, and automated valet-tracking system.

Viewing the experience of leaving the hospital with a new baby as more than a discharge, our parking team recommended a private, dedicated area, the “Launch Zone.” Families leaving the hospital enter a furnished meeting space, attended by hospital maternity discharge staff. So there’s no separation of family members at this special time, valets bring their vehicles directly to the Launch Zone.

Our project “delivery” was smooth and TCH achieved its vision: one that presents women with their “most complete health care destination.”