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Charles Perry Partners Inc.


Charles Perry Partners Inc. (CPPI) performed its first construction project for the North Florida Regional Medical Center (NFRMC) in Gainesville, Fla., more than 20 years ago. Since then, CPPI has performed numerous expansion and renovation projects on the campus, allowing it to understand the unique needs and challenges associated with hospital construction and specifically those of NFRMC.

“I have been working with [NFRMC] for eight years, but as a company, we have been there well before that,” CPPI Project Manager Kyle Robinson says. “We are continuously adding and renovating areas to meet the community’s needs. We understand how the different service tracts in hospitals function so we have been able to come up with great phasing plans and approaches that expedite the coordination process.”

CPPI’s past experience with the hospital has especially come in handy during the last 17 months, as the company has worked on what many at NFRMC and CPPI say is the most complicated project the hospital has undertaken.

In March 2010, CPPI began construction on the hospital’s West Surgical Tower, which includes the renovation of the dialysis center on the second floor, as well as a vertical expansion to add a fifth and sixth floor. The fifth floor replaced the hospital’s previous mechanical penthouse and air handler units with 24 patient beds, and the sixth floor will serve as the new mechanical penthouse. Bringing the new air handler units online while shutting down its previous system is where many of the complications surfaced, Robinson says.

“The existing penthouse and air handlers were on the fifth floor,” Robinson says. “But we were building out a new fifth floor and putting new air handlers on the new sixth floor. We had to shutdown the old air handlers and bring on new air handlers without interrupting the hospital’s service as much as possible.”

The original plan was to run temporary ducts down the sides of the building and into the various floors as the old system was being replaced, and the construction team did set out on this initial plan. At one point there were 8-foot-tall ducts running across the occupied third floor. However, they quickly realized that the weeks of disruption this would have caused to each floor was not the most efficient method.

“We would have had to do a shutdown and tie in the temporary ducts and another shutdown to tie in the permanent ducts, each requiring two-day outages combined with blocking off major paths of travel on lower floors,” Robinson explains. “We needed a way to tie in the ducts and avoid multiple shutdowns on the other floors. We found a way to run permanent ducts and put everything in place by having a four-day shutdown on the entire surgical tower that also eliminated the need to move numerous utilities on lower floors, construct temporary barriers, and provide additional infection control measures on occupied floors. This lowered the overall risks of the project and reduced the possibilities of reduced air quality as a result of temporary duct design.”

During the shutdown, temporary air handler units fed three operating rooms in case of emergency operations, as well as the first-floor sterilization and decontamination department which serves the entire hospital. During the four-day shutdown, the team was able to successfully take out the existing  air handlers  and test and install the new ones  while allowing the hospital to perform three emergency procedures in the temporary operating rooms.

Another challenge associated with this part of the project was its timing. Because the previous mechanical penthouse – which served all four floors of the hospital – needed to be demolished for the fifth floor to be built out, all of the electrical systems had to be in place on the sixth floor so the hospital could function.

“All of this happened on January 20, right in the middle of construction, and conveniently right at the birth of my second child, so I was already sleeping at the hospital, ” Robinson says. “We started construction in March 2010 and we are finishing up now. So we did that around month 10 of an 18-month project. Typically when you bring on a new building, you don’t have air handlers installed until the last quarter of the project. But we had to get permanent power, life safety systems, fire sprinkler systems and a complete mechanical penthouse up and running halfway into the job.”

That took care of the hospital’s electrical needs, but there was still quite a bit of plumbing work ahead. The fifth floor had a new design, and the sinks in the patient rooms did not line up with those on the floors below. All of the drainage pipes were rerouted through the fourth-floor ceiling through a series of 12 small phases. The team would work on three to four patient rooms at a time and tie the plumbing into the corresponding rooms below. Each phase took two to three weeks to complete, and extensive infection control measures were implemented for patient protection.

Lesson Learned

As of late August, Robinson says the team was in the punch-out phase. However, it will have little time to relish the success since CPPI and NFRMC are gearing up for a four-story addition that will be connected to the existing hospital. The 100,000-square-foot addition will house patient beds and a third-floor neonatal intensive care unit to continue developing NFRMC’s nationally-recognized maternity program.

CPPI is waiting on construction documents to be finalized and placed for bidding. The new building is designed to take on three more floors for possible expansion, Robinson says.

“We have done two vertical expansions for the hospital and the air handlers are always a huge sticking point,” he says. “The new tower is going to have air handlers on each floor and if they build new floors those will also have dedicated air handlers. It’s something we’ve all learned from and we are going to implement those lessons into the new design.”