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After an unforeseen halt, JE Dunn worked diligently with the project team to develop a new plan. By Jamie Morgan. Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, La., outgrew its current space long ago. In 2005, the specialty healthcare provider concluded its hospital was undersized for its current needs by six percent and by more than 26 percent for its projected 2012 goals.

Seeing the need for more space, as well as more flexible space, the hospital approved an aggressive construction schedule developed by its construction manager JE Dunn. However, the project’s start coincided with the overall economic downturn. In 2009, construction shut down for a year due to a drastic change in the bond market.

In a more normal, historical market, everyone on the team could have shifted focus to other projects until construction on Woman’s Hospital resumed. According to Mark Sybrandt, a vice president of JE Dunn’s south central region, that was not the case. He says there was not an abundance of projects in the region, and for those that were already awarded, start dates were being postponed.“The hospital thought it would benefit the project and decided to keep a group of our original staff on board,”?he says. “The team worked through many scenarios, developed organizational tools and conducted value engineering efforts, trying to reduce the overall budget and increase the overall efficiency of the project. Through the extensive process, we actually were able to streamline the project by $35 million, helping the overall project budget fit the original project proforma.”

JE Dunn, in conjunction with local contracting partners Womack Construction and Arkel Construction, worked with Woman’s Hospital, and the architect HKS Inc. to reconfigure the hospital’s layout, by reorganizing the Hospital’s floor plans and the five-story medical building. By reducing the amount of in-fill space required, the team developed a more cost-efficient plan without compromising on the hospital’s mission to create a new campus that is “aesthetically pleasing, technologically advanced and focused on exceptional patient experience.”

The plan includes four buildings spread across approximately 85 acres of land. JE Dunn is charged with building the following three:

  • A 24,000-square-foot central energy plant;
  • A 68,000-square-foot support services building; and
  • A 497,000-square-foot hospital.

The key features for the new hospital are increased flexibility to accommodate new services and technologies, nicely sized adult patient rooms and single-family rooms in the neo-natal intensive care unit.  The patient rooms were not designed as they traditionally have been in years past, according to Sybrandt. He says that hospital rooms typically mirror one another, with back-to-back headwalls. However, at Woman’s Hospital, the rooms are designed so each patient room has the same layout, furniture placement and headwall configuration, thus creating efficiencies within department such as the nursing staff, housekeeping and facilities management. In addition, each room has a similar view of the hospital’s picturesque landscape.

Back on Track

With an improved plan in place, construction for the new hospital recommenced in Feb­ruary 2010. One year later, the project is 55 percent complete and on track for completion in the second quarter of 2012. The structures are complete, and the major mechanical and electrical equipment is installed. The exterior skin is in progress and interior build-out is in initial stages.  Currently, there are approximately 800 workers on site daily, and the team is installing between $10 million and $12 million worth of construction a month.

Though construction will take roughly another year to complete, the team has already won a battle with patience. “We never knew if the project would continue,” Sybrandt said. “But to see great things happen, we had to have the patience to get back on track.”Sybrandt says the construction team atmosphere led by JE Dunn is positive and smooth. This is JE Dunn’s first project with Woman’s Hospital. Womack and Arkel have worked with the hospital on many projects in the past. The two companies add many self-performing capabilities, like concrete formwork. The three contractors operate as one management team, with one guaranteed maximum price.

“We are an integrated management team with JE Dunn being the lead,” says Sybrandt, who is also the project executive for this job. “Our partners are a great resource for local subcontractors and suppliers, as well as, supplement project management and field supervision staff. All the management and field supervisors work in one office, so it’s a seamless team.”

In addition to its leadership skills, JE Dunn offers the Woman’s Hospital project in-house mechanical/engineering/plumbing capabilities, expertise in 3-D BIM and a nationwide network of knowledge in various industries, including healthcare.“Healthcare in Louisiana is pretty strong,” Sybrandt says. “Most of our projects are in healthcare right now.” Sybrandt also notes that Louisiana’s construction market has fared better than other areas, including Atlanta, Houston and Dallas.  “It didn’t completely plummet [here] like markets elsewhere,” he continues. “Louisiana has sustained better than most. Some of that is due to storms and hurricanes, which create a need for rebuilding, re-growth and reconstruction.”

As evident from the temporary halt of the new Woman’s Hospital project, Louisiana has experienced its own less extreme slowdown. JE Dunn’s response to the construction pause is a lesson for contractors in similar situations. “As long as our client was willing to keep us involved in the project, we were willing to put forth whatever effort required to make the project a success,” Sybrandt says. “The shutdown benefited the project as a whole.  The construction is $35 million cheaper, efficiencies have been improved and Woman’s obtained an interest rate for their bond issue that was much lower than expected.  There were many instances where we thought restarting the project would result in a large mess, but the time we took to streamline and consolidate our efforts actually made the project much more efficient.”

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