NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – From developing an off-the-grid energy infrastructure to creating an intricate material delivery system - it will be a feat of engineering and ingenuity that will help build New Jersey’s first hospital dedicated exclusively to cancer care.

In the end, however, hardly anyone will see or notice many of the tasks vital to the day-to-day operations of The Cancer Pavilion, a $750 million, 12-story cancer treatment and research facility unveiled by officials from the city, the New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) and RWJBarnabas Health at a meeting at DEVCO’s offices on Feb. 4.

That’s because a lot of them are going underground.

Sign Up for Passaic Valley Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

For instance, DEVCO president Chris Paladino said all four of the medical linear accelerator – or LINAC - devices commonly used in radiation treatments will be placed underground.

“It is the safest and most efficient from a cost perspective to be able to put that type of machines underground so you’re actually using the terra firma to be the shielding for it, but it also gives us enough space to create the patient experience,” Paladino said. “So when someone is coming in for radiology, oncology or doing diagnostic work, we are able to provide them with the type of waiting spaces – preparation spaces, locker rooms, all those type things that they need and not have to go floor to floor and move about the building.”

Somewhere under the New Brunswick soil will also be hundreds of trucks, coming and going each day. The delivery and unloading of everything from the food that goes in the kitchen to the linens that go on the beds will also be moved underground.

This will lead to a quieter Somerset Street corridor, Paladino said.

“Downstairs, underground, the trucks are off the street,” he said. “There are neighbors in the back that won’t hear the beeping and to be able to load and unload those trucks and move that material into storage without having to kind of traverse the building. So, that’s a really important thing.”

So are the other amenities planned for the Cancer Pavilion, including the 84 infusion bays and 74 exam rooms for outpatient care, the 96 inpatient beds on three floors, the dedicated floor for surgical and procedure rooms and the lab facilities and equipment necessary to support 10 research teams comprised of four to eight members.

Seamless and less stressful were buzzwords that Paladino, Mayor Jim Cahill and Rutgers Cancer Institute Director Dr. Steven Libutti repeated nearly two weeks ago when speaking about the patient experience.

To bring that to life with brick and mortar, red terracotta and shiny windows, Paladino didn’t just rely on architects and engineers. He used his memories of those days when he would drive his wife to the Cancer Institute for treatment.

“My wife was treated for three years and you spend a lot of time in this building,” he said. “And, to know that there are people working every day to try to find a cure, to find better therapies – it feels good. It tells patients, it help family members to see those people coming and going to work, to look at laboratories and see that there’s work being done, to know that your doctor is working on something that may not necessarily help you that day, but your daughter with respect to breast cancer and to be able to talk to them about their research, it’s an important thing.”

The goal is to make the 510,000 square foot structure that will take about 1,000 workers three years to build one of the top 10, if not one of the top five, cancer programs in the country and keep patients in New Jersey instead of trekking to facilities in Philadelphia and New York.

And one way they’re trying to do that is through innovations such as creating a central utility plant that will generate all its own thermal energy, both heating and cooling.

“We will be off the grid,” Paladino said. “The grid will actually be a back-up, so the incidence of a Superstorm Sandy or other type of disaster, this building can run without having to rely on the poles and the wires of PSE&G and operate at 100%. It will automatically continue to run if there’s an outage.

“It’s a sustainable system because what you do when you do a CUP (central utilities plant) is you’re generating thermal off of engines that are also creating electricity. So, you’re using this duality in the amount of the way you use energy. And we will also most likely be able to provide some extra electricity and thermal to the North Tower at the existing hospital, taking some of the load off that building.”

Under the plan rolled out at the Feb. 4 meeting, the Cancer Pavilion will be built across Somerset Street on the 1.67-acre lot that is the current location of Lincoln Annex School.

The school will be razed and the students will shift to the school district’s facility on Van Dyke Avenue.

A vacant plot at 131 Jersey Ave. has been identified as a possible site for a replacement school. Some or all the land at 121 Jersey Ave. could also be part of the school’s construction.

RWJ Barnabas Health would pay for all construction, including anteing up $55 million for the school for students grades 4-8.

The Board of Education, which will next meet on Feb. 25, will have final say on the transfer of the Lincoln Annex School.

Cahill said the city spend $21 million to purchase and update the former St. Peter’s School, which was built in 1960.

Lincoln Annex is housed in two buildings joined by a walkway. There are no grounds for recess and parking is at a premium.

The tract at 165 Somerset Street is ideal, officials said, because it is yards away from the hospital and the institute. Walkways would connect the Cancer Pavilion to both.