Kentucky Presses Ahead with New Health Education Building

By Eric Althoff

LEXINGTON, Ky.—Project partners HOK, Turner Construction and JRA Architects were on hand for a recent groundbreaking ceremony for the University of Kentucky’s new Health Education Building. The 500,000-square-foot structure, to be located at the intersection of Huguelet and University drives, will be home to the university’s programs in nursing, health science, public health, as well as the Center for Interprofessional and Community Health Education.

The Health Education Building will entail two wings, one with eight floors and the other with 10. In addition to classrooms and learning spaces, the building will feature modern simulation facilities so that students can experience real-world healthcare scenarios. The building will entail brick and glass for the north wing as well as a glass front for the south wing to allow in sunlight. Other architectural design elements include a “basketweave” façade and a glass lantern design at the building’s northeast corner.

When completed in 2026, the Health Education Building will be able to increase the number of students educated in the College of Medicine to 200 per year, one of the largest medical programs in the United States. The College of Nursing will also double its enrollment, offering both a bachelors of science in nursing (BSN) and an advanced BSN program as the Bluegrass State continues to deal with a shortage of healthcare workers. Meanwhile, the College of Health Sciences will offer programs in language pathology, physical therapy, athletic training and medical laboratory science for over 400 students, and the College of Public Health will be able to increase its student complement by 30 percent in both its graduate and undergrad programs.

The layout of the facility is meant to encourage collaboration between various classrooms and learning spaces.

The $380 million construction project’s funding was authorized by the Kentucky General Assembly and approved by the UK Board of Trustees last summer.

“As a testament to our collaborative spirit, this one facility will contain programs from four colleges and the Center for Interprofessional and Community Health Education. We will educate students for a new healthcare future, collaborate through transdisciplinary work, and attract and retain the best and brightest to advance Kentucky,” said UK President Eli Capilouto at the groundbreaking. “Our goal—our promise—is that when our students complete these programs and join the workforce, they are well-equipped to face today’s complex challenges and help all Kentuckians live longer and healthier lives.”

“This is a wonderful building for the university and the state, and the credit for that goes to university leadership, the deans and their staff,” Eli Hoisington, HOK co-CEO and design principal for the firm’s St. Louis studio, said at the event. “This has been one of the most collaborative and engaging processes our team has worked on. Looking at our practice across the country, the scale and breadth of what is happening here is unprecedented.”

Of their firm being selected as general contractor, Turner executive David Opalka said the Health Education Building will be a “world-class project” when it is completed.

“We look forward to helping the University expand its program and achieve their vision to increase the number of students prepared to meet the growing need for healthcare services in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Opalka stated on the firm’s website.