Building The Hospital Of The Future

Words: Uma Basso

Words: Uma Basso
Photos: Earthworks Stone

BJC Healthcare had the vision to replace their aging Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital in St. Louis, MO. The original facility was constructed back in 1969 as Faith Hospital on a slat of farmland and was later purchased by Barnes Hospital in 1996. While functional for its time, it was challenging to take advantage of the recent advances in technology and improved efficiency due to the hospital’s infrastructure. Ultimately, these limitations impact the treatment and care a patient receives. 

With its vision to create the “hospital of the future,” BJC Healthcare set out to create a facility with a focus on innovation, efficiency, and enhanced patient care. “Every detail of the new Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital is designed to improve outcomes, as well as the experience for our patients, families, and the team providing their care,” says Bob Cannon, president of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and group president of BJC HealthCare. “The combination of advanced technology, adaptable clinical spaces, and welcoming campus will create the ideal environment for care and healing.”

After two years of design and planning, BJC Healthcare broke ground for its new hospital in 2017. Not only was the 260,000-square-foot facility designed with patient care and comfort in mind, but it was also made to incorporate the latest advances in medical technology and hospital efficiency. There are 64 private rooms designed with patient satisfaction in mind, plus accommodations for visiting family members. Keeping its eye on patient healing and the family experience, the hospital plans created inviting and open waiting areas, an expansive welcome center, and a comfortable café. Of its 14 planned operating rooms, one was designed to accommodate robotic technology. 

The Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital has experienced steady growth over the years and expects that trend to continue. Many of their medical services require patients to stay for shorter periods. So, creating a comfortable and convenient facility to accommodate patients' short-term surgical or medical treatments, including colorectal, gastroenterology, and ophthalmology, was key to patient care and overall efficiency. 


The new hospital was created to deliver efficient care to patients. The design team’s focus was incorporating efficiency into the new hospital design. Everything from efficient departmental layouts, easy access to supplies and medical equipment, closely located elevators, and quick transportation of medicine, specimens, and paperwork throughout the hospital was included in the design.

Creating a structure that was sustainable and environmentally-sound was also a top priority. LED lighting, high-efficiency plumbing, and mechanical structures, and automated systems to centralize control over ventilation, heating, and lighting were incorporated to reduce energy consumption while keeping its focus on patient comfort and care. Emergency backup systems for electricity and water were planned.

The exterior of the building was designed for protection against the elements. High-performing barriers against rain and air, as well as energy-efficient windows, were incorporated into the design.


We wanted to learn more about the high-performance building exterior that the hospital desired. We spoke with Amanda Word, Sales Representative of Earthworks, Inc., to find out more about this project. 

Creating an optimal patient experience was integral to the new hospital’s plan. While patient care happens inside the walls of the hospital, their experience begins as they pull into the facility. There are a variety of reasons that a patient and their family may be coming to the hospital. To ease an anxious patient or concerned family, the building façade needed to be warm and welcoming upon their arrival. Yet, it also needs to be functional and efficient. The global design, architectural, and engineering firm HOK, Inc. handled the architectural design of the new hospital. Architects from the St. Louis office were tasked with this project. 

Heitkamp Masonry installed the building’s exterior stone cladding. Established in 1964, Heitkamp Masonry has worked on multiple commercial and residential projects over the years. They currently have over 100 employees. To create an inviting look on the outside of the building, the masonry team relied on the natural stone using Earthworks EW Gold Limestone Cladding. To add a modern look and give some dimension to its peaceful look, shorter and larger cladding ran in banding courses. The varying heights gave the appearance of more depth along the walls, creating a modern and attractive look. 

The architect’s plan featured stone louvers. Since natural stone is not typically used in this fashion, this added a unique element to the project. In addition to enhancing the hospital’s look, the louvers are practical as they can naturally regulate light. To create this look, the stone was attached using the Gridworx Rainscreen Systems. Using a cladding system reduced costs, plus the Gridworx system offers future practicality as broken or damaged stones can be easily replaced. 

During severe winter weather, salt and ice melt are used on walkways and steps. While this is necessary to keep people from slipping on icy surfaces, salt and ice melt can damage and decay the natural stone and mortar joints at the base of the building. It can even lead to structural damage. To prevent damage and decay, the architect called for a dense material to be used along the base of the building. Mesabi Black granite was used as a band around the base of the building. The granite’s smooth black color stood in stark contrast to the muted gold tones of the limestone, creating a stunning look. Plus, the granite’s dense makeup helps to protect the base of the building from damage or deterioration.

The stunning combination of Mesabi black granite and the Earthworks EW Gold Limestone on the new hospital didn’t go unnoticed. This mix was later used for all entrance monuments for the new hospital, as well as throughout the campus. 

With a project this size, logistics, and proper coordination are critical. On-time deliveries and close coordination of work crews with other trades were vital to overcoming challenges, according to Amanda. To keep communication open between the architect and masonry contractor, daily meetings, shared scaffold use, and sticking to a close sequencing schedule were important. 


After two and a half years of construction, the new Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital opened in November 2019. Patients are treated to private rooms sporting the latest medical technology. Improved efficiencies, advanced technology, and revised workflow free up healthcare professionals so that they can spend on patient care and well-being. Comfortable waiting rooms, aesthetically pleasing open spaces, and amenities like a café and concierge service improve the patient and visitor experience. 

“We are excited to welcome our patients to a place that has been created for their healing, comfort, and well-being,” says Yoany Finetti, RN, MSN, BJWCH patient care services vice president and chief nursing officer. “Our new hospital brings together the science of care with the compassion of caregiving.”

The original facility was torn down after the construction of the new building was completed. To continue the hospital’s dedication to patient care and well-being, lush landscaping and trees have been planted on the original spot. Similar to a park, this helps to create a healthy and welcoming outdoor setting. Plans are underway to add a wellness trail for hospital staff, patients, and visitors.

While the Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital continues its quest to become the “hospital of the future,” it has held onto one piece of Faith Hospital’s history – twin palms. The lush trees that once towered around the entrance of the original hospital have become a symbol of its deep roots in the community. To commemorate this history, the twin palms were incorporated into the new hospital design.

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