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The right prescription: University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences

Silver Award: North Dakota builds a new medical/health sciences school to train and retain more physicians.

June 12, 2017 |

Anatomy labs usually get stuck in the dark, dank basement, but the SMHS team relocated mechanical equipment to the rooftop so that Anatomy could occupy the sunlit fourth floor. Photo courtesy Paul Crosby Architectural Photography.

North Dakota had a problem: looking ahead, the Peace Garden State would not have enough physicians to serve the population. So, hundreds of civic leaders, healthcare educators, and citizens formed a Healthcare Workforce Initiative. The chief goal: train and retain more doctors. The key component: a new School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS).

Medical planners and designers, led by local design firm JLG Architects, conducted a two-year space use study to convince the state’s conservative legislature that a radically new interdisciplinary healthcare learning center could be built for $124 million (the previous high for any state-funded higher education project was $64 million).

With funding OK’d, the Building Team was given three years to complete the 1.7 million-sf cap-ex project. JLG teamed up with Perkins+Will and Steinberg Architects on a Revit model that helped them deliver construction documents in 12 months—a year ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, the construction team of PCL and Community Contractors performed all the groundwork while the building was being designed.

The SMHS opened last fall. Compared to UND’s old med school, the new building increased occupancy by 20%, teaching functions by 20%, research functions by 24%, and clinical space by 112%, even as administrative space was cut 13%.

The SMHS accommodates new technology. Students can now simulate an ambulance transfer from the ER ramp through surgery, all in the same space—an impossibility in the old med school.

The new building is already attracting talent: a new Associate Dean was hired three-fourths of the way through construction.


Photo courtesy Paul Crosby Architectural Photography.


Building Team – Submitting firm, lead architect: JLG Architects; Owner: University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences; Design architect: Perkins+Will; Medical education designer: Steinberg Architects; Structural engineer: Heyer Engineering; MEP engineer: Obermiller Nelson Engineering; CM: PCL/Community Contractors JV

General Information – Size 318,000 sf Cost $124 million Construction time March 2013 to May 2016 Delivery method CM at risk


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