Capital Health’s new Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute pulses with ingenuity

On March 8, 2006, the last load of concrete poured onto the roof of Capital Health’s Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute in Edmonton, Alberta. It marked a major construction milestone-the completion of the building’s permanent internal structure.

Even halfway to completion, the new building is instantly recognizable by its most prominent architectural feature-a giant curtain wall of glass that curves around the building’s south wall and the University of Alberta Hospital’s emergency department.

To the northeast, an 8-storey tower will become the shaft for a giant “megavator”-one of the biggest elevators in Edmonton. The megavator will rush critically-ill patients from the rooftop helicopter pad to the first-floor emergency department in about 26 seconds-a speed that may be crucial to a patient in cardiac arrest, when every second counts.

Details like elevator speed are just one example of the planning that went in to the Heart Institute, notes Dr. Arvind Koshal, Capital Health’s chief of cardiac surgery and regional program clinical director for cardiac sciences. “We consulted with medical and architectural experts from around the world to ensure the heart institute is of the highest caliber.”

That includes the highest standards in construction. The Heart Institute will be a “green building,” equipped with energy-saving equipment like occupancy sensors that turn off lights in empty rooms and giant heat recovery wheels that strip heat from the air before it is exhausted to the outside.

Capital Health estimates that these features can reduce costs to run the building by $1 million per year. The energy-saving features will also increase the likelihood of the Heart Institute becoming one of the first hospitals in Canada to achieve LEED silver certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

To be LEED certified, a building earns points for innovative design features that promote a healthy environment, reduce costs and prevent waste. For example, green spaces on the Heart Institute’s various rooftops will reduce heat reflection, and underground water tanks will collect runoff rainwater so it can be used for non-sterile tasks like hosing down sidewalks. The building will also get points for encouraging alternative, environmentally-friendly transportation through its proximity to Edmonton’s new subway station and for providing lockups for bicycles. It will have bright, open stairwells which promote use for staff and able-bodied visitors, rather than energy-expending elevators.

The Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute will be one of only a few heart institutes in the world to accommodate both pediatric and adult heart patients. All under the same roof as the University of Alberta Hospital and Stollery Children’s Hospital, this integration is significant for heart patients who have other health problems such as kidney disease or diabetes. Rather than being transported to another facility, patients will have easy access to specialists such as nephrologists or endocrinologists. Moreover, the Institute will be fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology including diagnostic equipment, cardiac catheterization labs and operating rooms-all specifically designed for both children and adults.

The lower level of the heart institute will house the new Alberta Cardiovascular and Stroke Research Centre (ABACUS), where researchers and clinicians will work side by side on preventing, detecting and treating cardiovascular diseases. They’ll be able to track the progress of heart and stroke patients and evaluate the most current treatments, all within the heart institute’s safe clinical care environment.

“ABACUS will be the only Canadian research centre of its kind physically integrated into an acute care centre-as a research hospital within a hospital,” explains Dr. Stephen Archer, ABACUS Scientific Director.

The heart institute’s important association with the University of Alberta will ensure that researchers, students, cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and doctors-in-training have access to leading-edge technology and shared learning. Many of the world’s best cardiac experts are already working here, attracted by these unparalleled opportunities for collaboration.

Named for the former deputy prime minister Don Mazankowski-health-care champion and himself a cardiac patient-the Heart Institute has also attracted significant philanthropic support. In addition to a $156 million grant from the Government of Alberta, a University Hospital Foundation campaign led by Bill Comrie, JR Shaw and Dennis Erker garnered an impressive $40 million from donors across Alberta and Canada.

“The Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute will raise the bar on what we have been able to achieve in cardiac treatment, education, and research,” said Sheila Weatherill, Capital Health President and CEO. “We’re all looking forward to 2007, when it opens its doors to the world.”

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