Topping Out

With construction on the new UT Health San Antonio Multispecialty & Research Hospital well underway, IES attended the traditional topping out ceremony on October 17.  The new UT Health San Antonio Multispecialty & Research Hospital will be an eight-story, 144-bed hospital that offers specialty care in cancer, orthopedics, urology, and thoracic and bariatric surgery. The new $430 million hospital will give patients new options at obtaining first-in-class research, medicine and innovative technology not available to them previously.

IES served as structural engineers on the project as part of the EYP/Page and Alamo Architects design team. We asked two of our up-and-coming EITs who worked on the project, Alexis Velasquez and Gabriel Diaz, to give us their insight into the significance of this milestone event in a series of questions. 

1. What is a topping out ceremony and what milestone does it represent?

Alexis: The topping out ceremony celebrates reaching the full height of the building and the completion of the primary concrete structure.

2. What kind of traditions took place and the ceremony.  Did you get to participate in them?

Alexis: UT Health and Vaughn Construction invited the entire design team, the medical professionals who will one day be located in the building, and the entire construction crew working on the project. The event included speeches from UT Health officials and Vaughn Construction. All of those present at the event got the opportunity to sign their name on a beam that will be located within the building. Also included were many gifts including, a hat, a shirt, coasters, and beam paper weight.

3. What part of the building do you find most interesting?

Alexis: I found the size and scale of this project interesting, as it was not only the tallest and largest project I have been a part of in my career but also it contained a parking structure and a pedestrian bridge.

Gabriel: The tower was the most interesting part of the building. Although this area provided difficulties throughout the project, the different types of structural designs required in this area made it unique.

4.  What was your role on the project?

Alexis: I was one of two project engineers on this project. Inside the facility, I focused on the pier and column design, the mechanical yard and basement design, and all additional steel required around the building – from canopies, wing walls, to the penthouse steel structure. I was primarily involved with the parking garage and the design of the pedestrian bridge.

Gabriel: My main role on the project consisted of designing the reinforced concrete beams. I also helped design steel framing and assisted with the detailing of the reinforced concrete shear walls.

5: What did you like best about working on this project?

Alexis: Getting the experience to work on a project of this scale and magnitude which had many challenges that pushed me to learn and grow in my understanding as a structural engineer.

Gabriel: As my first project right out of graduate school, the best thing about working on this project was not only how much I learned in structural design, but also in construction.

6: Out of all that you learned on the project, what stands out the most?

Alexis: That it really does take a team and a lot more internal and external coordination to get a project done right.

Gabriel: How much coordination goes into a project of this size!

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