Huntsman Cancer Institute Kathryn F. Kirk Women’s Cancer Center

Paul Dyreng
minute read
March 17, 2024

Conceived in 1995 as a visionary project, the world-renowned Huntsman Cancer Institute has since evolved through multiple construction phases. The latest and fifth phase, the Kathryn F. Kirk Comprehensive Cancer Care and Women's Cancers facility includes an entire floor devoted to breast and gynecologic cancers, 48 new inpatient rooms, four new operating rooms, blood and bone marrow cancer treatment spaces, and an integrative health center.

Amidst an ongoing, bustling operation of the existing buildings that comprise the institute, meticulous planning and execution of the fifth phase were paramount. This new 225,000-square-foot clinic adorning the northern edge of the campus was meticulously designed to meet the burgeoning demand for top-notch healthcare services, and connecting this innovative addition to the existing structure without impeding existing services was no small feat. A 200-foot-long patient bridge stretching across two stories allows staff and patients to move freely, complemented by a smaller bridge at level 1 linking to the existing building.

However, the true marvel lies beneath the surface. Navigating through 60' of rock and stone, the project required blasting techniques and the elimination of 3 columns at the base level to accommodate the structure and allow for a driving lane beneath it.

Confronted with the task of balancing a combination of bedrock and natural soils, innovative solutions emerged.


Additional space at the Huntsman Cancer Institute was the project's primary purpose. The new facility provides an entire floor dedicated to women's cancer care, four additional operating rooms, 48 inpatient beds, 20 exam rooms, and two floors of shelled space for future needs. Reaveley's team played a pivotal role in helping the Huntsman Cancer Institute fulfill its mission to "relieve the suffering of cancer patients."  

HCI operates under the guiding principles of "Patient and Community first," fostering unity and striving for excellence in all endeavors. Upholding these principles, the design and construction of the facility were thoughtfully aligned. The design team diligently crafted a building that would instill pride and a sense of safety within the patient and community, with unwavering commitment to achieving excellence as the ultimate goal.


The project encompassed a multitude of challenges. First, the design called for a drive lane and drop-off area beneath eight stories of structure, but we knew this would be difficult, as a custom truss would be too tall to keep the building within the height requirements. We considered using multiple off-the-shelf beams that would be connected (built-up members from rolled sections). However, this option failed to provide adequate strength for a reasonable cost.

The solution lay in the construction of specialized 60-foot-long custom-built-up plate girders. Often a solution for bridges, this allowed us to achieve the necessary strength while meeting the height, depth, and cost requirements essential to the architectural vision.

Second, it was necessary to connect the new structure with the existing building, allowing for the free flow of patients and staff between buildings. Though a bridge was the obvious solution, its design and construction would be complicated by site restraints. We knew that the bridge would need to be erected by crane before the erection of the building structure itself, but how would it be supported?

The best solution to this challenge was to support the bridge on the stair core shear wall at the existing building, sufficient to carry most of the load. We created a stand-alone shear wall pier to support the opposite end of the bridge, leaving it wholly supported but separated from the new structure. A "stay in place" structural form deck was placed at the existing stair core, supporting the new beam slab system. This was accomplished without any interruption to the serviceability of the staircase.

The bridge's design was delegated to a deferred design team specializing in roadway pedestrian bridges and well-versed in the AASHTO code. Our team worked with the deferred design team in a collaborative effort to ensure the bridge met the requirements of the IBC. This effort demanded careful planning to ensure no disruption in services within the confines of the existing buildings.

The third and most significant challenge lay in the site constraints. A daunting 60-foot excavation and shoring operation were executed to allow for the construction of an adequate number of stories on the heavily sloped site. This complication was compounded by the need to accommodate the bridge support pier within a mere 5 feet of the shoring wall, butting right against the property easement. Additionally, we designed a small, laterally independent structure for the electrical room, which is separated from the rest of the building by an expansion joint.

The space between the building and the permanent shoring wall created a unique moat condition, which required a detail allowing a moat cover that would attach to the shoring wall but would not resist the building in the case of a lateral force event.


Engaged at the intersection of innovation and compassion, owners, engineers, architects, and contractors involved in designing and building modern healthcare facilities understood the pivotal role that physical spaces play in ensuring staff and patient safety. Our structural framework, specifically the selection of a steel moment frame, was a deliberate choice driven by its superior flexibility and cost-effectiveness. This choice ensures the unimpeded flow of operations. It allows for the desired movement and adaptability across floors, even considering future expansions with two levels of shelled space, thereby ensuring optimal functionality without compromise.

Recognizing that structural impediments can disrupt caregiving processes, the design optimizes the spatial configuration of patient rooms, nurses' areas, corridors, and specialized zones such as storage and supply rooms. This ensures that the structure does not stand in the path of caregivers as they move throughout the facility.

As structural engineers, our foremost priority is ensuring the safety and functionality of the facility without obstructing the critical processes that drive the cancer center's operations. Navigating the intricacies of a seismically active site replete with unique constraints, our challenge lies in crafting a resilient structural system that not only seamlessly integrates new and existing building structures but also does so in an economically viable manner.  

Our commitment to sustainable, socially responsible design is woven into every aspect of the facility. Great care was taken to ensure the structure's capacity to elevate the quality of care, fostering a nurturing environment that promotes positive outcomes for caregivers and patients.

General Contractor: Layton Construction
Architect: Architectural Nexus
Mechanical Engineer: Van Boerum & Frank Associates
Electrical Engineer: Spectrum Engineers
Civil Engineer: Psomas

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