Higher education

University of Iowa Children's Hospital price tag up $68 million

New total comes from upgrades and demand for skilled labor

Scott Turner (right), executive director of the University of Iowa Children's Hospital, points out various features on a model during a tour of the University of Iowa Children's Hospital for the Board of Regents in Iowa City on Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Scott Turner (right), executive director of the University of Iowa Children's Hospital, points out various features on a model during a tour of the University of Iowa Children's Hospital for the Board of Regents in Iowa City on Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa’s new state-of-the art Children’s Hospital will cost more than planned — about $68 million more.

The 507,000 square feet of new construction, plus 56,250 square feet of renovated space, originally was budgeted to cost $292 million, to be paid through bonds, patient revenue and gifts.

Safety updates, clinical upgrades, patient environment enhancements and construction considerations have pushed that total upward of $360 million. Construction is on track to finish in fall 2016, with occupancy slated for that winter. The extra $68 million to pay for it will come from hospital revenue bond proceeds and gifts — not taxpayers.

Among the safety enhancements that have driven up the cost about $14 million are upgrades to the facade and mechanical systems should bad weather hit. A robust window system, for example, was designed to ensure it would stand up in a tornado. And each patient room now incorporates two protective automatic window shades capable of containing shards of glass and debris projected at high wind speeds, according to documents.

The hospital also is incorporating an oversized transportation elevator that features emergency medical gas outlets, power and other services needed for patient care. And the building now has specialized infrastructure to care for patients who might have a pathogen, like Ebola.

Addressing the growing number of pediatric patients with a medical and psychiatric diagnosis, crews are creating four “safe rooms” to ensure proper treatment while minimizing the potential for them to harm themselves. Clinical program enhancements, costing $16.65 million, include integration of three additional induction rooms in the MRI suite “to more efficiently administer sedation” before the imaging procedure.

A laboratory has been added to the plans for advanced studies of the brain, including advanced study and treatment of children with epilepsy and other neurological diseases.

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“It will be the first of its type in a children’s hospital,” according to regent documents.

Environmental changes, costing $16.35 million, include building graphics and design elements — like flooring, wall coverings and lighting — to help make the facility “more navigable and welcoming.”

Construction considerations, like demand for skilled labor, account for the highest increase — $21.25 million.

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