Location Columbus, OH
Size 1.1 million ft²
Cost $1.1 billion (current expansion)
Completed 2014 (expected)
Program Treatment facility, patient rooms, offices, operating rooms

A positive mental outlook can have a great impact on the recovery of those in need of prolonged medical care or treatment. This was always at the forefront as The Ohio State University (OSU) developed its ongoing $1.1 billion expansion of the Wexner Medical Center, the largest portion of which is the new James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute and Critical Care Center designed by HOK. The fragility of recovering patients mirrors that of another living system in need of repair and care—our shared ecological environment. “It’s a very high priority for us,” says Bernard Costantino, OSU’s architect. “[Throughout] the last five years, we’ve moved in a strong direction toward sustainability.” We went inside the design and found the future of sustainable health care.

Planning Patient Care 

OSU’s Wexner Medical Center expansion was preceded by a lengthy planning phase that included a projection of future care needs based on the population of Ohio, the Wexner Medical Center’s service area, and development metrics. The results indicated that there would be a 21 percent increase in patient admission over the next ten years; this helped inform the strong financial consideration applied to the expansion. The largest portion of the project, which will cost approximately $745 million, was designed with two separate care models in mind: The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute sits directly atop the Critical Care Center’s larger floor plan and creates two buildings in one tower serving two different types of patients with different care needs.

Renderings show the extensively daylit interior spaces, including the arrival lobby and surgery waiting areas and the large, landscaped roof terrace.

Water and Windows

The treatment of glass was an important aspect of the design process. “We wanted the rooms to be vibrant from a livability standpoint and for them to receive as much light as we could get,” Costantino says. The use of glass is most noticeable on both the north and south sides, and all the windows were looked at with energy control in mind. In addition, a new 30,000-ton chiller plant built to support the expansion project will eventually supply most buildings on the medical campus with chilled water. Projections show the medical campus will have 30 percent energy savings by centralizing chilled water.


Client The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Architect HOK
Associate Architect Moody Nolan
General Contractor Turner Construction
Engineer BR+A Consulting Engineers

Positivity Through Design

OSU was cognizant of the important role that a positive attitude plays in recovery and the innate human affinity for nature that helps to foster that positive mood. “Green roofs are a very important part of the project,” Costantino says. Those green roofs are all observable from patient rooms, and one will be accessible. In addition, a new park will be created in an area just south of the tower, and it will occupy a city block with an area for children, a food court, and a rehab garden. “The park will be a dramatic addition to the green space at our medical center,” Costantino says. “We think this is critical to the well-being of patients. A positive attitude and a positive environment are going to contribute to healing.”

The pick up and drop-off entrance area will boast an impressive canopy formed by undulating fins.


Certification LEED Silver (expected)
Site Garden terraces on north and south sides of building, creation of open green spaces
Materials Rapidly renewable materials such as bamboo used for interiors
Water Rainwater-runoff catch basin, low-flow plumbing fixtures
Energy Heat recovery wheel for mechanical systems, thermal efficient exterior glass
Landscape Drought-tolerance and indigenous plants


Spirit of Women Park 

More than a decade ago, a tribute park was built to honor women who have lost their battle with cancer. It involved tiles that represent artwork created by family members. During the course of the expansion, the park has been recreated and rebuilt. The new Spirit of Women Park sits in an existing 1.6-acre quadrangle at the Wexner Medical Center and features glass panels that duplicate the art in the original tiles. These glass panels sit in a pool to be viewed through the water and lit at night. “It’s a very special place on our campus,” Costantino says.

Building a Floodplain 

Plans are in place to improve the Olentangy River, which runs through OSU’s campus. Currently, a parking lot inhabits the floodplain adjacent to the river; site plans involve removing the parking lot, moving a road above the floodplain, and turning the river into a larger, floodable green space available to patients of the Wexner Medical Center. “It’s going to take some time,” Costantino says, “but we envision the riverfront to be part of the learning experience on the academic campus, part of the healing experience for our patients’ care, and a recreation space for all of our students, faculty, and staff.”