With the news of COVID-19 spreading in other parts of the world earlier this year, there was a sobering acceleration of the new Peter Gilgan Patient Tower at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, ON. In order to put urgently needed ICU beds into circulation to care for infected patients, it was a true team effort amongst Unity Health, EllisDon and our consultants to sprint to the finish line. The result was the delivery of 33 single patient room ICU beds – 17 in the 4th Floor Medical Surgery Unit, and 16 in the 7th Floor Cardiac Care ICU, including three ICU negative pressure isolation rooms. In the days ahead, additional floors and beds will be delivered on a priority basis to support the frontline healthcare workers and patients with infection prevention control procedures and standards as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Our Health Sciences team has never felt more compelled to be supporting something much larger than we could have ever imagined. Understanding the magnitude of the unprecedented global healthcare environment, we take a moment to recognize all healthcare heroes.
The new Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower is the focal point of a multi-year visionary 3.0 Redevelopment project at St. Michael’s Hospital. Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, ON, the new 17-story Tower replaces an old three-story parking and storage structure with a modern facility that provides improved patient care and experience, increases the number of patient beds and improves critical care services. The Tower will also transform circulation and wayfinding across the entire hospital’s campus, with the completion of a future public internal street running north-south through the center of the Hospital, providing improved public amenities and linking the new Patient Care Tower to the existing Donnelly, Bond and Cardinal Carter wings and to the future new Shuter wing.
Designing, coordinating, and constructing all these changes has been an enormous challenge for the team. It has not been a linear process, but has rather been more like an intricate puzzle of interlocking and interdependent pieces. In order to get started, the team applied for and received 69 building permits in 16 months. Multiple early works, demolition, and decanting projects were undertaken in order to start the Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower. The Tower links the existing south Donnelly Wing with the existing west Cardinal Carter Wing. Both were built at different stages of the Hospital’s life, with different requirements. The floors of both wings are not always on the same level. In addition, ceiling heights and ceiling spaces for critical services are not as high as current industry standards.
The interfaces between the new Tower and the two existing buildings required a lot of creative thinking and extensive close collaboration with the consulting engineers, the general contractor, and their sub trades. Added complications to this were the City’s seismic requirements and the fact that St Michael’s Hospital is a Post Disaster facility. All buildings in the City need to accommodate for the inherent seismic conditions, but the added durability considerations required by the post-disaster status (meaning that the hospital must remain functional to provide essential critical services during and after a disaster), only amplified these requirements and added to the buildings’ complexity at the interfaces.
As with any downtown site, space is at a premium for a new build. Not only was the new Tower built tight to the property line, but it also had to extend past this on the fifth floor with a corridor cantilevered out over the Victoria Street sidewalk. This dramatic design move is rooted in the spatial requirement of the operating floor. In order to provide the required new five operating rooms, necessary circulation, and support spaces, the floor plan needed to be larger than the available site area. The only way to provide the required area, therefore, was to locate the corridor over the property line. The team applied for, and succeeded with, an easement application to ensure that this met the City’s planning approval requirements. This functional design solution adds a defining element to the main façade of the building. Its transparency helps to articulate the building and enhance the streetscape.
The new Tower and its integration into the existing Hospital is an extremely important addition, not only to St. Michael’s Hospital, but also to the City of Toronto, especially at this critical time with the escalation of COVID-19 cases in the community.