Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community


Beam me up

Construction ceremony marks hospitals’ milestones

Workers prepare the framework on the new Stanford Hospital


Physicians, staff, parents and donors mingled at the construction site of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford January 14 to celebrate its topping off — a ceremony to mark the completion of the structural phase of its new facility and to observe an important milestone in the construction of the $1.2 billion project.

The 30-foot-long, 6,000-pound steel beam had been painted white and placed adjacent to the construction site a week earlier so that physicians, staff, visitors and construction crew members could sign their names and express their sentiments. During the ceremony, the beam was hoisted to the roof of the hospital’s south tower and bolted into place, along with an American flag and a redwood tree that will be planted later in one of the new hospital gardens.

In March, the new Stanford Hospital will place a similar steel beam by its main entrance for patients, visitors and staff to sign. It will hold its topping-off ceremony adjacent to the work site and place the beam atop its eight-story tower. A small tree and a flag will be strapped to the steel bar as it is lifted into place.

A topping-off ceremony is a long-standing tradition in construction that occurs when the highest piece of steel is placed on the building’s frame. Its origins trace back to the Vikings, who would place an evergreen tree on the top of a building for good luck. Known as kranselag in Norway, wiesca in Poland and pannenbier in Holland, the tradition has been common in Europe since the 1400s.

Jonathan Berek, MD, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, adds his name to the topping-off beam at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.


“It’s a significant milestone for the project,” said Michael Lane, vice president of Phase II design and construction for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. “The topping-off beam is a symbol that the steel frame is essentially finished. Next will come the rest of the floors and the exterior skin of the building.”

The beam will be visible for about four months while crews complete the welding, build the metal decks and concrete floors and fireproof the entire framework. After that, the prefabricated external components will arrive, and the tower cranes will lift the building’s precast concrete shell and weatherproofing into place. By fall, the children’s hospital will look more like a building than a construction site, Lane said.

“As we approach the halfway mark of construction, the ceremony is an opportunity to recognize the time between the groundbreaking and the grand opening,” said Kevin Curran, director of construction at Stanford Health Care. “In the case of the new Stanford Hospital building, there was a lot of digging down before we started building up.”

By the time the Stanford Hospital topping off takes place, more than 200,000 cubic yards of dirt will have been removed from the site and 36 million pounds of steel will have been installed, he said.

Scheduled to open to patients in early 2018, the new 824,000-square-foot adult hospital will increase patient capacity to 600 beds, all of which will be in private rooms.  The new hospital will feature an enlarged Level I trauma center and an emergency department more than twice the size of the current one. Its groundbreaking was held on May 1, 2014.

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford broke ground on its long-planned expansion and new main building in September 2012, and the project remains on schedule to open in 2017. It will add 521,000 square feet to the approximately 300,000-square-foot existing hospital, streamlining diagnosis and treatment with state-of-the-art operating rooms and specialized equipment that caters to the unique health-care needs of children, pregnant women and their families. The expanded space will allow for the creation of 149 new rooms and the most technologically advanced children’s hospital in the United States.

More than 7,900 tons of steel will support the children’s hospital once it is completed, said Lane.

“There’s no building more complicated to construct than a hospital, especially in California,” Curran said. “The construction quality standards are extraordinarily high because the building not only has to be safe — it has to be up and running after an earthquake.”

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