March 2024

Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas

JE Dunn Construction’s relationship with Seton Healthcare (now Ascension) in Austin, Texas began in 2008. Through supporting Seton’s mission and alignment of values, JE Dunn was eventually awarded two small projects which were completed successfully and established trust in JE Dunn’s ability to execute. This relationship and proven track record were in place when the momentum for a new academic medical center on the campus of The University of Texas picked up steam.

Chuck Lipscomb, who now serves as JE Dunn’s office leader in Austin, said the vision for a modern medical school and teaching hospital at UT Austin came into focus in 2012, following approval of a property tax increase by local voters. After a competitive proposal and interview process, JE Dunn was ultimately awarded the project in December 2013.

Working in JE Dunn’s Kansas City office, Greg Euston was invited to move to Austin to help pursue and build the project, which was the largest project JE Dunn had pursued to date in Austin. He and his family moved in 2013 and have stayed in Austin ever since as the Austin office has continued to grow.

“This project really put JE Dunn on the map in Austin,” Lipscomb said. “Of course, we had built projects in the area prior to the hospital, but this was the most complex, high-profile development in the city at that time, and is still among the most iconic in terms of the impact to the community.”

The acute care facility was designated to be the primary teaching hospital for the new Dell Medical School at The University of Texas, with Level 1 Trauma designation focused on community health needs, academic medicine, research, and serving as the primary safety net hospital for the Central Texas region. The 520,000-square-foot hospital includes 195 licensed patient beds, and emergency/trauma, radiology, labs, surgery, classrooms, and a new heliport.

Dell Seton replaces a 100-year-old medical facility that sat across the street from the UT Austin campus. During construction, the university was also building other projects around our site, including a parking garage, medical office building, research building, and the medical school itself going up at the same time.

“Part of the difficulty was having other contractors working all around us” Euston said. “There were eight tower cranes between the three different contractors in use at one time, with our project sandwiched in the middle. Communication and coordination were critical.”

The site was restricted, with a steep drop off and creek on the west side, an active university building to the north, a new road being constructed on the east side, and one of the busiest streets in Austin to the south, making access a challenge. Pre-fabrication was a necessity. When the use of precast panels was ruled out, JE Dunn pivoted and decided on full-scale stud-framed exterior wall panels, which were built by project trade partners in a warehouse facility nearby and included all windows and waterproofing installed complete. JE Dunn also prefabricated patient room bathrooms and headwalls.

“This wasn’t the first time we’d used prefabrication as a company, but it was the first time used to this extent in Texas,” Euston said. “It was innovative and really helped us meet the tight schedule. It was a postage-stamp site in a busy market that needed a prefab solution, and we pulled it off.”

The construction schedule was extremely aggressive, Lipscomb said, and the team finished on time and received the first patients during May 2017 as promised.

The project achieved LEED Gold certification and was named Austin Business Journal’s project of the year in 2017.