Yesterday, the official breaking ground for a new building for the University of Iceland's School of Health Sciences took place on the Landspítali University Hospital ground in Vatnsmýri. The building will revolutionise all teaching and research facilities in health sciences, and it will house nearly all faculties at the School of Health Sciences under one roof. The buildings completion is estimated in late 2026, and when finished it will be almost 10,000 square meters in area.Preliminary examination for the housing of health sciences within the University of Iceland began in 2005, and several work groups within and outside the University have worked on designing teaching facilities, research labs, and offices in these almost twenty years. The current design for the building is thus a product of years of development and work that will strengthen teaching, research, and innovation in the field of health sciences.
Health Sciences at UI under one roof
The people on the shovels on behalf of the University of Iceland: Jón Atli Benediktsson rector, Unnur Þorsteinsdóttir, dean of the School of Health Sciences and the students Sigríður Helga Kárdal Ásgeirsdóttir and Daníel Thor Myer, who are both on the School's Governing Board and the University´s Student Council. Ásdís Halla Bragadóttir, Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation broke ground on behalf of the ministry in the absence of Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, Minister, and Runólfur Pálsson, Chief Executive Officer represented Landspítali University Hospital.
"This is a happy day," said Jón Atli, rector at the University of Iceland, at the construction site yesterday. The house will be built east of Læknagarður that currently houses part of the School of Health Sciences' operations.
"We have set a goal in the University strategy to complete the construction of a School of Health Sciences' building so it is extremely satisfying to see this progress. The University of Iceland works more closely with industry in the field of health care than in most other areas as the Landspítali University Hospital is our largest and closest collaborator. We will educate a large part of the people who do important work in the Icelandic health care system in Iceland in this building. It is thus a great asset that facilities for teaching and research will be on par with the best on a global scale.
Ásdís Halla Bragadóttir, Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, said that from the new ministry had since its foundation placed great emphasis on support for the development of health sciences, high quality education, and attracting more students to health sciences. A new building for the University's School of Health Sciences is one of the key factors.
"The plan is the increase the number of students in medicine from 60 to 90 in a few steps until 2028 and University students in nursing from 120 to 150. Furthermore, we can improve the studies, increase the quality, strengthen research, science and innovation with new facilities."
She added that the fast ageing of the Icelandic nation not only calls for more graduates from health sciences, but also increased innovation in health care; which the new building should be able to facilitate. "This is an important step in that direction."
Unnur Þorsteinsdóttir, dean of the School of Health Sciences, said that everyone hoped that the new environment created in the new building would benefit the nation as a whole.
"Bringing units in the field of health sciences together under one roof will result in more collaboration across the board, in both teaching and research. Support services for faculties and the school will be joined into a dynamic unit working for all faculties. We can assume that once the diverse operations of the school have been joined under one roof, we will witness even further growth and innovation in the field of health sciences, as the building will support the resources that lie in the people who work there. The vast research infrastructure that has been developing in life sciences in recent years will also be under the same roof in the Health Science building, which will lead to better use of equipment and strengthen collaboration and quality in research in life sciences," added Unnur.
Runólfur Pálsson, Chief Executive Officer at Landspítali University Hospital, says that it is cause for celebration that construction of a new house for the School of Health Sciences is now started.
"There are around two thousand students enrolled in health science study programmes who do their training at Landspítali University Hospital. There are also many employees who work both at the hospital and the university. The new Health Science Building will thus strengthen both the close collaboration between the hospital and the university in educating new staff for the healthcare system, and the scientific activities in these institutions. The role of Landspítali as a University Hospital will without a doubt be strengthened by having the University of Iceland's School of Health Sciences joined under one roof in the new building on Hringbraut," added Runólfur who is also a professor at the University's Faculty of Medicine.
Revolutionary for the field of health sciences
The new building will be connected to Læknagarður which will be renovated. The building will be specially designed to meet the requirements of the school with top teaching and research facilities. The design includes the needs of diverse users with emphasis on flexibility in the use of spaces, inclusive design, good acoustics, daylight and atmosphere such as air-conditioning and heating. The designers are Verkís, TBL architects, and JCA architecture.
Construction will begin soon and the building is estimated to be ready for use at the end of 2026. Renovations on Læknagarður are estimated to be completed at the end of 2027 or beginning of 2028. Part of the University's School of Health Sciences will thus have moved into the new building before renovations on Læknagarður begin. This is done to maintain continuity in the school's operations.
The Eirberg building that has for many years housed the Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery on the hospital grounds will also be used by the shool as needed.