The HCD 10: PennFIRST, Outstanding Organization Leave a comment

In 2014, when the project team for the new Pavilion at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania was being selected, a goal was set to adopt an integrated project delivery (IPD) methodology that maximized interdisciplinary teamwork to create an atmosphere of innovation at all scales.

The Pavilion itself was to serve as a launch pad for Penn Medicine’s next generation of patient care, rising 17 stories in a tight urban location on and connected to the organization’s West Philadelphia campus and housing inpatient care, surgical services, and a new emergency department.

To meet that goal, the PennFIRST IPD team was created. Together, its members represent a powerhouse group of design and construction experts that includes architects HDR and Foster + Partners, engineer BR+A, and construction managers L.F. Driscoll and Balfour Beatty in partnership with Penn Medicine’s clinical and facilities experts.


Working together in a co-located studio for six years, the PennFIRST team created an intensely collaborative atmosphere that the members say they’ve not experienced in their collective careers. But beyond simply collaborating on a deeper level than a traditional project, the IPD team worked diligently to utilize new techniques and approaches for the betterment of the Pavilion.

For example, computational design kept all members apprised of any design changes, full-scale mock-ups of an entire inpatient unit helped test the design with users, and new project delivery methods such as target value design and the “last responsible moment” concept were used as planning and risk mitigation tools.

Documentation deliverables, regulatory submissions, and decision-making deadlines were mapped and agreed to by the full team, working backward from design milestones and forward through procurement and construction to ensure success, with prefabrication used on an unprecedented scale to contribute to that effort.

Additionally, to position the hospital as a local destination for care and a global destination for medical expertise, the PennFIRST team sought community feedback and diverse perspectives to inform its design, ensuring that the building reflects all those it serves. An experience mapping activity allowed for a deep analysis of the user journey and helped designers focus on touch points from pre-arrival to discharge and create a human-centered experience.

Overall, the result is an academic medical center that’s designed and built to last a century and capable of flexing and adapting to changes. It’s even the largest healthcare facility in the world to achieve LEED Gold for Healthcare certification.

Yet another test of the team came in 2020, when Penn Medicine challenged it to fast-track completion of treatment spaces as part of surge planning for COVID-19, nearly 18 months ahead of its scheduled completion. Within 23 days, the building team turned over 120 beds on multiple levels of the building as the project itself was demobilized for 41 days.

Through it all, the members of PennFIRST say the experience transformed both the building and their professional outlooks. Pushed out of comfort zones and toward considering how large-scale projects can and should be delivered, the individuals who make up the team now walk away with lessons that will go on to influence the industry at large.

Click here for more on all the 2022 HCD 10 winners.



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