The Daily Gamecock

Plans for new USC health center advance

A ceiling in the 38-year-old Thomson Student Health Center is crumbling because of water damage.
A ceiling in the 38-year-old Thomson Student Health Center is crumbling because of water damage.

Designs not set for $27 million building, which could break ground in December


Student Health Services could break ground on a new, $27 million health center as early as December.

The building hasn’t been designed yet, but architects and designers have started to seek input from Health Services staff and students, including at a student forum Thursday evening, said Nicole Carrico, the office’s spokeswoman.

Health Services has been taking funds from the student health fee over the past few years to pay for the construction, Carrico said.

It’ll be designed by Quackenbush Architects and Perkins+Will, who were selected in a bid process for their experience with healthcare facilities and their aesthetics, which usually feature lots of glass and an open design, Carrico said. She compared the building’s design to the look of the renovated Patterson Hall.

“It will be a very transparent, welcoming place to visit,” said Doug Quackenbush, of Quackenbush Architects, at Thursday’s forum. “We’re very excited about how it could really improve the campus.”

The 60,000-square-foot building will go up next to the existing Thomson Student Health Center, which will be renovated and eventually house more of Student Health Services’s offices, which are spread across campus, Carrico said. Who will handle the renovations isn’t yet clear, she said.

The new building will also streamline how on-campus healthcare works. It’s expected to improve patient flow and privacy, create more relaxing spaces and add some new services, possibly including eye care, a spa, alternative medicine and nutrition classes, according to Carrico and the building’s designers.

“The university has set a goal of this being one of the best facilities nationwide,” said DeDe Woodring, of Perkins+Will.

It’ll also shoot for platinum LEED certification and could include solar panels and a green rooftop, Carrico and the designers said. 

And, Carrico said, it’s aiming to make the building less of a place students have to go to and more of one they’ll seek out.

“We don’t want to be the place where you go when you’re sick,” Carrico said. “You can come hang out in our building and learn about wellness.”

Right now, Carrico said, the health center doesn’t do that, and it’s become far outdated and cramped since it was built as an infirmary to house students overnight in 1973, when USC’s enrollment was far lower.

Employees and administrators work in old overnight rooms, storage spaces and broom closets, she said.

Many spaces lack heating and air conditioning, ceilings on the top floor often leak, the cinder-block structure isn’t reinforced and could be vulnerable in an earthquake, the 40,000-square-foot building’s running out of storage space and it has an incinerator that Carrico and others said they’d never seen used.

“This one’s 38 years old. It’s way expired,” Carrico said, comparing the current building to the new project.

The new building is expected to last through the next 30 to 40 years, Carrico said, and by then, she figures today’s technology and aesthetics will be outdated again.

“Going into this, we know we’ve absolutely got to build a building that’s going to be functional and work for our students 35 years from now,” Carrico said. “In the year 2048, they’re gonna be like, ‘Man, this building is a real piece of crap.’”