To the Best of
Their AbilityLab

With NBBJ’s assistance, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago successfully transitioned not only into its new state-of-the-art facility, but into an entire new identity as the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

The $550 million, 1.2 million square-foot Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is the first ever “translational” rehabilitation research hospital, where clinicians, scientists, innovators and technologists work together in the same space as patients to discover new approaches and apply research in real time. The project expands and accelerates the leadership that began at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, which since 1991 had been consistently ranked the #1 rehabilitation hospital in America by U.S. News & World Report.

As the selected partner to guide the new building’s activation, NBBJ helped the newly rechristened Shirley Ryan AbilityLab manage its risk and leverage its talent and resources to open on-time and on-budget.

Building photograph courtesy of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.


NBBJ facilitated the redesign of 232 new clinical and organizational processes and developed a new building orientation for a staff of more than 2,000 people.

Process Redesign

Throughout the activation process, the transition team conducted regular building walk-throughs to visualize the new space, department adjacencies and operational workflows.

Site Visit

Before moving in, fourteen clinical scenarios were tested to simulate real-life events, ensuring that new care processes and technologies were ready to go on Day One.


In planning for the actual patient move day, two “mock moves” were conducted to test cadences, departure and arrival timing and overall move safety.

Mock Move

After months of preparation and weeks of phased departmental relocations, within a few hours on March 25, 2017, patients and caregivers moved into the new Shirley Ryan AbilityLab without incident.

Final Move