Clad in yellow vests, safety helmets, and protective glasses, a group boards a hoist alongside Penn Medicine’s in-the-works hospital. Construction crew members step inside the bright red elevator—one by one—lending a hand when it’s needed.
“Floor 16” is shouted from the back. With a nod, the machine’s operator flips a handle to the left. To the roof the team goes.
On top of the Pavilion, where a new helipad will be implemented, workers are spread about, with a view of Philadelphia’s iconic skyline—clear as ever—in the background. It’s a welcome break in mid-July’s heat wave; a topic of genuine delight.
The facility boasts a unique copper-colored façade that’s now almost entirely enclosed—a new development throughout the past couple months. Inside, the first installation of patient rooms, operating rooms, and emergency department exam rooms are being constructed, as pre-fabricated bathroom pods are delivered. More than 800 construction workers bustle within the 1.5 million square foot Pavilion, sometimes referred to as HUP East (it’s just east of the longstanding Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania).
“One of the biggest focuses for us this summer is to get the building watertight,” says Stephen Greulich, a senior project manager since 2006 for Penn Medicine, and the head of PennFIRST, the Integrated Project Delivery team coordinating the new Pavilion. “When it rains, lots of water gets inside, which just hinders and slows down the work that’s being done in the building.”
They’re also working to finish up plumbing, and, “even though it’s 95 degrees right now,” says Greulich, with a laugh, “there’s a focus on getting ready for the winter, making sure we have the heat working.”
The Pavilion, a seven-year megaproject, which had its last steel beam raised in early June, is on track to be completed in 2021. The University’s largest capital project ever at $1.5 billion, the ambitious, innovative hospital will house 504 private patient rooms, 47 operating rooms, 61 emergency department exam rooms, and 690 below-ground parking spaces.
“It’s very exciting,” says Greulich. “It’s actually pretty amazing, how big the project is and how comprehensive. … Every day is a whirlwind.”
A tunnel for HUP patients and staff, which is nearing completion, will connect HUP West to the new HUP East. Also, work commenced in June to build a pedestrian walkway, outfitted with trees and benches, between the Penn Museum and the Pavilion, directly linking the nearby SEPTA Regional Rail station to the University’s campus.
Although the Pavilion is the biggest and most expensive single project being worked on at Penn this summer, and arguably the most eye-catching in its sheer size and progress, it’s just one of a flurry of happenings on campus. In fact, not including the Pavilion, about $75 million is going into this summer break’s 390 active projects, according to Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES).
“We plan really all fall and early winter to design, bid, and procure the projects so the lion’s share can begin the day after graduation, when there’s a limited number of classes going on,” says Anne Papageorge, vice president of FRES. With 65 work days between Commencement and move-in, it’s typical that campus sees about 525 construction workers daily in the summer, she adds.
On the northwest side of campus, ground has been broken at 40th and Sansom streets, on student entrepreneur space Tangen Hall, and steel started to be erected at New College House West, near Walnut and 40th streets—promising a much-different sight for students returning to campus next month. At the intersection of 37th and Spruce streets, the new Wharton Academic Research Building continues to develop, set for completion in summer 2020.
The Penn Museum also progresses through its multiyear renovations, which kicked off summer break with the historic move of its 3,000-year-old sphinx to the Main Entrance Hall, and workers at the Penn Squash Center are in the final stages of its renovation, set to open by September.
Anyone strolling through campus this summer has also likely seen sidewalk upgrades, pointing work, and roof replacements taking place, as well as façade jobs being completed on some of the University’s most adored spaces, such as College Hall and Franklin Field. In addition, HVAC installation will be completed at Kings Court English House and W.E.B. Du Bois College House by the end of August.
Aside from the new air conditioning, says University Architect Mark Kocent, “There’s so many things that the students will never know we do over the summer, because the day they left, the scaffolding went up, and it will be gone before they come back.”
Indeed, there’s never a dull moment when it comes to building and improving Penn’s campus—whether it’s summertime or not—says Mike Dausch, who’s been executive director of design and construction at FRES since 2008.
“I probably can’t walk a block on campus in any direction without seeing a building we’ve either built or had a major renovation to since I’ve been here,” he says. It’s that always-growing, thinking-ahead mindset so many at Penn maintain.
Now that summer nears completion, Dausch has his sights set on even bigger and better things for the future.
“Now we’ll start the design work for the projects that will happen next summer,” he says.
Homepage photo: Clad in hard hats and safety vests, a construction crew works atop Penn’s new hospital, overlooking Philadelphia’s iconic skyline.