In an isolated, icy setting RLB’s team helped bring imagination to life.



Rising from the snowy tundra of the Arctic Circle lies Utqiaġvik, the northernmost community in the United States. In 2013, 50 years after opening its original wooden hospital, the town once known as Barrow snipped the ribbon on a new 9,300 sqm (100,000 sq ft) state-of-the-art healthcare facility.

In an isolated, icy setting of below zero temperatures and polar nights, RLB’s team helped bring imagination to life. Utqiaġvik’s temperature remains below freezing for six months of the year and the sun sits below the horizon for around 66 days. Just 2.6 per cent of the Earth’s surface lies farther from the equator. But RLB was determined that Utqiaġvik’s polar climate and remote location would be no barrier to a brilliant building. Now nearly four times larger than its predecessor, the Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week as a hub for health, education and healing for the broader North Slopes community.

At a glance

  • Client
    Arctic Slope Native Association
  • Services
    Commercial Success
  • sector
  • Location
    Utqiaġvik , United States
Stroke 2

Isolation sparks inspiration

Our role began with a market analysis of potential construction scheduling, logistical and cost challenges to help our client make the best strategic decisions. Our role expanded to include cost consultancy services to the architecture team during design, and work as the owner’s representative and project manager throughout construction, fitout, commissioning and close out. We relished each role for its opportunity to contribute to this remote but connected community.

"RLB’s team drew on our deep expertise, sound construction knowledge and strong professional relationships to solve several critical design and engineering issues. With RLB’s help, we saved the Arctic Slope Native Association – and the people of Utqiaġvik – hundreds of thousands of dollars and played our part delivering a building that will help people to heal in their homelands for generations to come."
Dave Powers, Project Lead, RLB

Construction within the Arctic Circle is challenging on many fronts, but logistics and procurement top the list. With no roads leading in or out of Utqiaġvik, RLB solved many procurement and scheduling headaches by carefully coordinating barge cycles to ensure “just in time” deliveries and keep the construction schedule moving forward. Our plan shaved off one whole month from the program and saved the Arctic Slope Native Association $1.4 million in possible lost operational funding from the federal government.

With careful consideration of cold-climate design principles, the hospital’s design is both inspiring and practical.

Capturing the interplay of light, ice and beauty of the Aurora Borealis in its colours and contours, the building is a tranquil place for health and healing.

A harmonious place to heal

The largest village on the Arctic Slope, Utqiaġvik has been home to the Iñupiat people for more than 1,500 years. While Utqiaġvik is a modern community, many people continue to rely on subsistence hunting, fishing and whaling. Drawing inspiration from the spectacular surrounding landscape, the Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital was designed to minimise its impact on the environment and traditional subsistence hunting.

  • 9,300
    state-of-the-art hospital
  • 4,200
  • 515
    north of the Arctic Circle

Skills and experience save lives and funds

Delivery of exceptional medical care rests on accurate and timely lab results. Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital’s lab saves valuable time that would otherwise be lost sending specimens to far-away medical centres. When getting the laboratory up and running proved a problem, RLB team applied its skilled operational experience to find a solution that allowed the lab to open on time. The result? A saving of $200,000 in operating funds and, most importantly, the earliest possible introduction of life-saving services.

A better tomorrow through flawless execution today

The Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital took nine years to complete – five years for design and four in construction. During this time, as technology evolved, RLB reviewed and revaluated its recommendations three times to make course corrections. With a laser-like focus on technology trends, we were able to recommend new methods and approaches that saved time and money.