The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District helped cut the ribbon Sept. 21 on the Department of Defense’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-Platinum hospital.
The ceremony marked the official opening of Weed Army Community Hospital at Fort Irwin, Calif. The Los Angeles District was the lead agency in the design of the facility.
At a cost of about $211 million, the 216,000-square-foot structure is the only LEED Platinum, carbon-neutral, net-zero certifiable hospital in DOD. Three LEED-Platinum hospitals have been built in the U.S., however, this is the only one built for the DOD.
“This world-class facility, dedicated to the health and wellness of warfighters and their families, is tangible proof of the project delivery team’s dedication to the people they serve,” said Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, commanding general, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “And I say world-class facility on purpose because this medical facility is truly in a class all of its own.”
The hospital sets a new standard for the Army and the DOD, he said, and is probably one of the “greenest hospitals that’s ever been built” in the world.
Semonite, along with Gen. Robert Abrams, commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command; Maj. Gen. Thomas Tempel Jr., commanding general, Regional Health Command-Central; and Brig. Gen. Jeff Broadwater, commanding general, National Training Center and Fort Irwin, presented remarks and cut the ribbon during the ceremony.
As the nation’s first carbon-neutral medical facility, it generates all of its energy from solar power and other renewable energy systems. It also uses Xeriscaping, a form of landscaping that uses native plants and storm water runoff, eliminating the need for a permanent irrigation system. Additionally, the hospital is outfitted with low flush and flow fixtures that use 30 percent less water compared to the required baseline. The hospital also will have net-zero energy use, which eliminates more than 9,000 barrels of oil consumption annually.
Because the landscaping requires no water for irrigation and the hospital produces all of its own power, it saves about $700,000 annually in water and energy consumption for Fort Irwin, Semonite said.
Officials broke ground on the hospital in 2012. The facility was completed under budget and to an absolutely exceptional quality, Semonite said.
“As engineers, we earn our credibility, our reputation and our value by delivering desired results on time and on budget, so I’m very proud of the team for delivering this vertical facility,” he said.
Abrams described the hospital as an unbelievable, state-of-the-art facility, which was long overdue.
The original hospital was built in 1968 and named after Brig. Gen. Frank Watkins Weed, a medical officer known for his distinguished career during world wars I and II. The replacement hospital also bears Weed’s name and is more than 60 percent larger than the original one.
For the 10,000 Soldiers and their families who live at Fort Irwin, having accessible health care is paramount, according to Abrams.
“For those Soldiers who help train the Army, they need to know that A., they will be cared for,” he said, “and B., they need to know that their families will be cared for and have the very best facilities possible.”
The opening of the new hospital is a historical moment for the National Training Center and is several years in the making, Abrams said.
“It’s been a tremendous team effort to get this thing over the goal line,” he said. “From the Defense Health Agency, leadership from the Corps of Engineers, the sustained leadership of the Corps of Engineers … Army Medical Command, Health Facilities Planning Agency, Turner Construction, the staff here constantly providing feedback over time and the great Fort Irwin Garrison. All of that — an incredible team effort — to get us to where we are today. So it’s been quite a journey. It’s a great day for the Army, it’s a great day for Fort Irwin, and we’re just glad to be a part of it.”
Following the ceremony, Army spouse Sophia Jordan, who is married to a Soldier serving in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, was one of many Fort Irwin residents who toured the new building.
Jordan has lived at the installation for the past two years and gave birth to the couple’s first child, Izzy, 1, at the original Weed Army Community Hospital. Jordan is pregnant with the couple’s second child and said she is looking forward to delivering their baby in March at the new hospital.
The new facility’s Mother-Baby unit features five labor and delivery, recovery and postpartum rooms, one C-Section suite and a nursery. A lighted wall behind the beds in the labor and delivery rooms change colors to provide a calming experience during delivery.
Although Jordan said she had a good experience as a patient at the old Weed Army Community Hospital, she is looking forward to experiencing child birth in the updated facility, where it seems easier to navigate and provides more space, she said.
Many of the patient rooms, including labor and delivery, also provide panoramic views of the Mojave Desert Wildlands and the Tiefort Mountains.
The new hospital is one building with two distinctive sections – hospital care and outpatient care. With three floors, it boasts 15 in-patient beds; an emergency department with nine treatment rooms and one trauma room; a pharmacy with state-of-the-art automation that increases the efficiency of pharmacy operations; a laboratory; orthopedics; primary care; radiology; women’s health; optometry; physical therapy; a medical and surgical ward; and behavioral health, among other services.
“This hospital is a place of healing, benefiting a community that does so much to keep our nation ready, safe and secure,” Semonite said. “Although this particular project is complete, our relationship with the Fort Irwin community is strong, enduring, and we want to be able to step up when Fort Irwin needs the Corps of Engineers … The Corps is proud to play a very small part in this historic project, and we look forward to continuing to deliver for everyone who calls Fort Irwin home.”