When the new Banner Estrella Medical Center tower opens to patients in March, it will mark a major milestone for construction in Phoenix. The 279,000-square-foot tower will be the metro area’s first concrete hospital built since the early 1980s.

“In other regions, concrete is widely used in healthcare projects,” says Chris Jacobson, vice president of business development for McCarthy Building Companies’ Southwest Division, “but Phoenix hasn’t seen the same trend.” The general contractor, known as a top national healthcare builder, was determined to make a case for concrete.

Together with CECO Concrete Construction and PK & Associates, the project’s concrete contractor and structural engineer, McCarthy presented Banner Health with a compelling argument for concrete instead of steel frame construction. The owner quickly recognized the potential for significant savings of material costs and construction time.

The structural advantages were just as attractive, considering the hospital’s unique requirements. The team presented data on many benefits of a concrete structure: meeting standard column spacing templates, flexibility for future remodeling, infection control, noise control, energy efficiency, and dampening vibration—a critical factor where sensitive medical equipment is used.

“We showed that concrete did not limit the project in any way,” says Jacobson. “With the rising cost of healthcare in the U.S., saving on the initial project through alternate systems without compromising performance was a big factor in the owner’s final decision.”

Construction of the six-story tower began in August 2012, as part of a $161 million expansion that includes two new parking structures. More than 26,000 cubic yards of concrete will be used in the project. “Using concrete allowed us to meet an accelerated construction schedule—as well as the community’s long-term health needs,” says Jacobson.