KU Medical Center Health Education Building

A Case Study

KU Medical Center Health Education Building

The University of Kansas Medical Center is the only medical school in Kansas and a premier institution for training primary care and rural physicians. Anticipating the educational needs of the 21st century, KU Medical Center has designed and constructed a state-of-the-art facility that is both responsive to curriculum needs and flexible for future use.

The new Health Education Building addresses modern curriculum for medical students, training for future health care professionals and emphasizes inter-professional education. In this facility, medical students train alongside nursing students, therapists, health professionals, and some time simulation actors, to learn a cohesive team approach they will use in clinical settings. The new building includes two 225-person learning studios that convert into one large room, classrooms accommodating 4 to 30 students, learning studios designed for 40 to 225 students, 20 exam rooms and simulations rooms:  emergency department/intensive care, med surgery, labor and delivery, operation and post-anesthesia care.

The entire building is a new approach to learning. We highlighted five features that set it apart.


The Health Education Building is linked to the south side of campus through a sky bridge.  While the bridge functionally connects the two buildings, being approximately 30-foot wide, it also brings students additional collaborative spaces.

Because the bridge spans 39th street, a four-lane, high-traffic road, and is a main ambulance route, two lanes of traffic remained open during construction. Through months of planning with campus stakeholders and Kansas’ Unified Government, our team analyzed the traffic patterns and scheduled strategic phasing. Unlike most bridges that are completed a full section at a time, the team determined it needed to be constructed like a typewriter. The team first constructed the steel the length of the new bridge, then started back with the next element, repeating until all scopes were complete. Below are some construction photos with some details describing the process.

The Health Education Building is linked to the south side of campus through a sky bridge.

One unique structural component of this building is the 30-foot overhang that’s supported by a truss system between the second and fourth floors. This truss system supports all the weight from second floor to the roof. By working with the design team and engineers, our team determined the correct camber for the complex steel structure. To a passerby, this gives the building a “floating” look as the top three levels hang over the bottom two without any support columns. Below are some construction photos with detailed descriptions of the process.


Co Architects and Helix designed the building to look like a view into the human body. While the glass represents the “skin,” the terracotta baguettes inside are the “ribs.” The “ribs” protect the central classrooms and labs, the “heart” of the space.

The building’s glass walls are made from low-e insulated glass so the heat footprint coming in is minimized. The glass wall and the interior wall act as an insulator to that heat.

The building is also equipped with heating and cooling controls tied to occupancy sensors and automatic setbacks. All spaces utilize energy efficient LED lighting and programmed window shades that lower and raise automatically tracking the sun’s heat. With these innovations the building’s energy use is designed to be 24 percent below state energy guidelines.


The Health Education Building’s green roof creates insulation (lowering cooling and heating costs), mitigates the urban heat island effect, reduces noise and provides an aesthetically pleasing and healthy environment for students, faculty and staff.


The new health education teaching technique and its technology is unique and innovative. No other school combines all disciplines of health education students. At KU Medical Center’s Health Education Building, nursing students are working with doctors, therapists and pharmacists performing real-world applications collaboratively with simulation mannequins.

We are always looking for the next unique and innovative project. If you are thinking about your next construction project, get a quote from us today.


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KU medical center health education building in Kansas City, Missouri
The team set the temporary structure on the top of the towers to set the main beams. This allowed us to fit the round structural column for a precise fit. Each structure had full pin welds that took over two days to weld.
ku medical center health education building bridge
The 1.5” steel rods hanging from the top beams support the beams at the floor of the bridge.
KU Medical Center health education building
Bob D Campbell Engineers designed the structural beam splices, to allow phased lane closures that always allowed two lanes of traffic flow.
Bridge tower at KU medical center
Once the structure was built on the south side of 39th street, the team set the third and final structure on the north side of 39th and connected the last beam.
Ku medical center health education building steel beam
The beams were 60-foot long and the east 30 foot was cambered into a rainbow shape to allow for deflection downward at the mid span, the west 30 foot, having no column support was bent in a reverse rainbow shape to allow for the deflection downward at the end of the 30-foot cantilever.
KU medical center health education building during construction
At two locations between floors two and three there was a truss structure added to allow the transfer of load and stiffening of the upper structure. This allowed the west 30 foot of building to have NO column support to the ground. Another truss structure was added between floors three and four.
Welders working on KU medical center
The 15-foot cantilever on the north and south were welded with full pin moment weld that took 12 hours to complete. The beams were set to their proper elevation with temporary columns that were removed after the weld.
KU medical cente rhealth education building in Kansas City
The “floating” west end of the building next to Rainbow Blvd. and the “floating” floors at three, four, five were more than 5 feet off the curtain wall steel.
KU medical center health education building interior
The building is designed to look like a view into the human body. While the glass represents the “skin”, the terracotta baguettes inside are the "ribs". The “ribs” protect the central classrooms and labs, the "heart" of the space.
KU medical center health education building during construction
The green roof’s long joists span 60 feet and settled 3.5 inches once the dirt was loaded on the roof structure.
KU health education building green roof
After installing the roof system, the team added an extensive subterranean drainage system for water shed.
ku medical center health education building in kansas city
The skylights provide a change in elevation representing the Flint Hills of Kansas and allows daylight for interior spaces below for student’s comfort.
KU medical center green roof
There are eight inches of soil equipped for planting areas for a true green roof.
KU medical students working in a simulation lab
The students can perform almost any medical procedure on the simulation dummies, like draw blood, insert an IV, take a pulse, perform surgery, and help give birth.
KU Medical center simulation labs
Most mock hospital rooms have a simulation control room where teachers and students can observe and evaluate the practice.