Colorado’s New Veteran Facility Emphasizes Sustainability

By Roxanne Squires

AURORA, Co. – The highly anticipated Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center (VAMC) has finally opened its doors to patients, replacing its former 60-year-old hospital building with a new and luminous 1.2 million-square-foot facility.

The VAMC will provide care for more than 390,000 Veterans and will offer services including a 30-bed spinal cord injury clinic, aquatic therapy, mammography, and PET scans for cancer and prosthetics.

There will also be expanded telehealth services, polytrauma and a traumatic brain injury unit located on the 31-acre site. Additionally, the hospital includes 900,000-square-feet of parking space for staff and patients.

In the beginning, renovations to the Clinic [Building South], formerly University Physician, Inc., was awarded a $571 million to Kiewit Turner (KT) of Englewood and initiated construction in April 2011.

The Campus Construction project, also awarded to KT, began in November 2011 while  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) issued substantial completion to KT in January 2018. Turner Construction of New York also served as the general contractor.

The Center’s design concentrates on sustainability, which incorporates photovoltaic panels, solar evacuated tubing and optimal daylighting throughout the curtainwall system, all of which help produce energy-cost savings.

The Concourse building connects all buildings of the hospital, providing weather-protected access to the various services as well as a space for community.

An infusion clinic is located on the third floor, facing west, providing ideal views of the Rocky Mountains. The openness and lighting along with the artwork are there to help improve patient care and are abundant throughout the facility. There are also private rooms with an area for family members to wait and stay.

Most notably, the Spinal Cord Injury Unit (SCI) stands as one of the only 25 other facilities in this country to provide services that qualify for specific rehabilitation needs of Veterans with spinal cord injuries. The SCI also features an outdoor rehabilitation garden, allowing patients with spinal cord injuries to adapt to their chairs in a protected environment.

“Open space within the Concourse Building and throughout the campus promotes opportunities for Veterans and their families to engage with others within the Veteran community,” said Jennifer Williams, project executive, construction and facilities management of the Denver Replacement Project.

“The SCI and Mental Health have several rooms which are two person rooms to help with the peer to peer support for either the new SCI patient or a mental health patient.  The entire campus has very special design elements from showcasing each branch of service to naming the reception areas after a Colorado mountain.”

Williams continued, stating that this is to assist with wayfinding and to also provide a sense of community.  Additionally, the medical center has partnered with the VFW to bring in Veteran Artwork which is for sale, helping support Veterans as a result.

Unlike the previous facility, the new building allows the hospital to adopt new technologies with the campus having a fully integrated physical access control system, which includes both security cameras and various card readers.

The unique feature of this system is that it was integrated with the existing Eastern Colorado Health Care System which spans the entire eastern side of Colorado and into Kansas.

The campus includes many other innovative technology components to assist with patient care and patient experience, including the Sip and Puff technology that allows paralyzed Veterans to control equipment in their room with their mouths.

“The biggest challenge on this project has been shifting the focus from the problems this project faced in the past to celebrating the successes of this project today, said Williams. “This facility, which incorporates new services and technologies, will enable VA to serve nearly 400,000 Colorado Veterans and their families. Some of the most proud moments on this project have been helping a Veteran find their way to an appointment or the Canteen while listening to their comments on what a wonderful facility this really is.”

The Rocky Mountain Regional VAMC officially opened for outpatient services on July 27 and present Denver VA patients moved into the facility on August 4.

Although the facility is already open, the VA medical center is continuing its work to address the growing Veteran population in the region by guaranteeing high-quality services while a PTSD clinic is planned to be built on the campus as soon as possible.