MATTHEI & COLIN ASSOCIATES, LLC
The defining challenge for this project was time. The fast track schedule was driven by the Owner’s desire to complete the project from design to occupancy in 120 days, largely due to the community healthcare needs as a result of the pandemic. Authorization to proceed with design was received on March 23, earthmoving started March 31 and by April 17, permit level drawings were complete. The primary purpose was to create an infectious isolation unit separate from the hospital’s inpatient functions. In addition to the aggressive deadline, all the work had to be completed while the design team was under strict lockdown, meaning all design and planning had to be done in a remote, virtual environment. Daily video meetings with the construction manager, design team, project owner and Washington County code officials addressed all concerns in real time, which helped keep track of progress, tasks and encouraged collaboration. Another challenge was the changes in supply chains and distribution due to COVID-19 which threatened to slow down the overall progress. Major building systems and components needed to be determined much earlier in the design process in order to secure availability through manufacturer’s, many of which were shut down due to COVID-19.
Daily virtual meetings and continuous communication amongst all team members during design and construction was critical to the overall success of the project. A decade earlier, the same team completed the new 510,000 SF, 267 bed replacement hospital on the same site in a record 30 months. The team was familiar with the existing building design and systems including all the people associated with its’ continued success. As the project proceeded, immediately the first critical steps were defined as identifying long lead materials/systems and get them ordered as the building was being designed, engaging County and State officials to develop a plan to streamline the permit processes while ensuring quality and safety of the final product and developing a schedule with major milestones identified along the critical path. In a normal process, planning and design would span 9 months but the new processes were expedited in a linear fashion, confirming critical decisions as plans developed and addressing issues as they arose. The goal was to prioritize and proactively identify design and systems challenges to minimize delays. In two months, the building was water-tight and after only four months of design and construction, the facility received temporary occupancy. Building systems and components were prefabricated as much as possible to help maintain social distancing and accelerate the construction schedule. The local building code authorities became an integral part of the design and planning process to help create a successful project recognizing a very aggressive time-frame. Video walk-throughs were performed by the Construction Manager and information sent to the design team for input and comments. The project was completed on time, on budget and is currently performing beyond expectation to care for COVID-19 patients and provide a safe environment for all caregivers.
Key to the success of the project was that the design team, owner, construction manager, major suppliers and tradesmen could come together and execute a project in 4 months which would normally take 16-18 months. Engaging EVERYONE very early in the design process helped to work through any of the challenges due to the condensed, fast-track schedule. To measure the success of the results, we only have to look to the quality of care patients are receiving in the unit and the Hospital’s ability to provide care in a totally isolated unit, distant from other inpatients. Since its’ opening, the unit’s 20 Beds have been fully occupied with COVID-19 patients and allowed the Hospital the flexibility to treat the most critically ill in a safe environment for patients and caregivers.
The design and construction process provided the team with confidence that, in times of crisis, our industry can come together and truly perform above and beyond any expectations. These results could affect the way projects are delivered in the future, knowing how to overcome challenges both small and large, remote work, value of a central model, working with systems manufacturers, prefabrication, communication, etc. Simply stated, project delivery methods could be fundamentally changed as we move forward through the pandemic and beyond.
The next steps are to assess the success of the unit 1 year from now and document how if functioned on daily basis during the pandemic and determine what could potentially be improved. There will be a lot of key findings and issues to document, but all the information will be used to successfully chart the future of design for healthcare environments. The immediate success of the project is measured by the number of COVID-19 patents and quality of care they are currently receiving.
LINK TO PUBLISHED ARTICLES ON THE PROJECT
A Hospital Addition In Maryland Was Desinged And Built In 120 Days
Meritus Launches $12.5 Million, Four-month Expansion Project
Twenty-bed Meritus Health Regional Infection Containment Wing Completed In Four Months