Rush University Medical Center: New Tower the Gem of Chicago

Rush University Medical Center unveiled a new $654 million tower in Chicago

There’s an old saying that too many cooks spoil the broth. In the instance of a new $654 million healthcare facility in Chicago that definitely wasn’t the case. The spirit of cooperation loomed large and moved Rush University Medical Center’s new 14-story tower into the future and beyond with the latest healthcare, security and technological deployments.

There were many ‘cooks’ involved, including an electrical contractor (EC), an integrator with an existing relationship forged on an access control system and surveillance installation/upgrade in the older buildings on campus and a new integrator brought on board by the EC—but it worked meticulously, with planning, meetings and updates of specifications peppered with generous doses of input from in-house security management, engineering, facilities and IT teams. The end result is a gem of a building on the near West side of Chicago overlooking the Eisenhower Expressway.


State of the art and of the future

Referred to simply as The Tower, Rush University Medical Center has applied for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The atrium of the new building, called the Edward A. Brennan Entry Pavilion, is highlighted with an expansive floor-to-ceiling glass cylinder that’s an indoor terrarium and includes trees and soil in a continuation of a green roof design atop the structure. It also masks a more practical use—panels on each side of the pillars are designed to provide oxygen, electrical and other medical necessities in the event of a major catastrophe in which the pavilion can morph into an expanded emergency room.

The Campus Transformation Project, designed by Architect Ralph Johnson of Chicago firm Perkins+Will was in the planning stages for several years and opens to patients this month. The Tower adds some 300-plus new adult and critical care beds, bringing the hospital’s total to close to 700 and making it one of the largest medical complexes in the area.

Geriatrician Dr. Anthony Perry led the Rush Transformational Team, a group charged with planning the new building and spearheading the healthcare provider’s goal to recommit to its campus in the Illinois Medical District and secure funding through donations and city, state and federal grants. Other highlights of the new medical center design include:

  • Butterfly-shaped floors which maximize existing light and centralize caregiver and nursing areas,
  • An emergency room that is part of a new bioterrorism and major disaster response plan for Chicago paid for by a $7.5 million grant from the McCormick Foundation and grants from the federal government. (The former emergency room, which is in one of the campus’ older buildings, will be razed after the new building opens.),
  • The ability of each room to contain and dispel contaminated air from highly contagious patients,
  • An ambulance bay area that can convert into a massive decontamination room,
  • A surveillance system that can trace disease as it traverses across the city,
  • A new central command and control center for security and surveillance, and
  • Upgraded and integrated video and access control systems with multi-use identification cards.

Lauris V. Freidenfelds is the director of Security and Emergency Management at Rush University Medical Center and is proud of the technological advances in the way of security as well as others that have been implemented in the new tower. The goal and end result of the new security installations, he said, were to integrate intrusion detection, patient wandering, infant abduction, duress, surveillance and access control in a converged solution that assists in the safety of employees, patients and visitors.

“Our goal was comprehensive visual and alarm notification,” Freidenfelds said. He added that the medical center’s duress system will eventually be integrated with radio frequency pendants worn by nurses for instant and immediate notification of location and events.

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