Campus Overhaul a Lesson in Teamwork

Tue May 23, 2006 - Southeast Edition
Maybelle G. Cagle

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) campus in Little Rock has begun $265 million in campus expansion projects.

It is one of the most expensive construction efforts in Arkansas since the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigational System was built in the 1960s.

It started as two smaller, but separate jobs, said Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson.

“Our existing hospital was built in the 1950s and is inadequate for meeting our patient care, education, research and community outreach missions in the future. To support a major hospital expansion, we knew we’d need a new parking deck,” he said. “Separately, the Department of Psychiatry in the UAMS College of Medicine was planning for the Psychiatric Research institute. It made sense to coordinate these projects together.”

From there, the projects dominoed.

“We needed space for the hospital expansion and a logical location was where our old and outdated student dorm was located. So, we needed a new residence hall. In addition, when you are adding this much square footage, you’re going to need adequate utility service, so the new energy plant was needed. Also, the size of the hospital addition required expanding the street leading onto campus as well as relocating a portion of it.

“We needed land for the new residence hall. The Arkansas State Hospital next to our campus agreed to provide vacant land and in return we would build a new hospital facility for them.

“The focus was the hospital expansion, but as a result of that project, we needed the other projects to happen at the same time,” Wilson said.

Leo Gehring, vice chancellor of campus operations, who is overseeing the expansion, said there are three main challenges with the projects.

“First is that we have so many different projects, which are separate, but entwined. The diversity is dramatic because you have the utility, facility, road improvements, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the hospital. Each of those has its own set of requirements and challenges,” he added.

He said the diversity of the team of contractors involved is a challenge in itself.

“Because of the scope of the projects, we have multiple contractors, a design team and the various support elements. It requires a lot of coordination.”

Lastly, he said, “There is the acceleration of construction costs since we first began planning these projects. There have been many elements driving this, from higher petroleum prices to higher construction and materials prices worldwide due to factors ranging from Hurricane Katrina to rapid growth in China.”

Gehring said the projects have two general contractors. CDI Contractors Inc. is the general contractor taking on the hospital addition, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the new parking deck that will be adjacent and below those buildings. Baldwin and Shell Construction Co. is the general contractor for the new residence hall, the new utility services building and the new state hospital.

McGeorge Contracting of Little Rock, an earthwork contractor, is currently excavating for the underground parking deck.

“We’re moving some 160,000 to 170,000 yards of material to an off-site location,” said Project Manager Bob Cornish.

Cornish said fill dirt for the parking deck will come under another portion of the contract. Excavation started in early May and will continue through July.

Heavy equipment being used on the job includes: a Cat 345 track hoe, a Link-Belt 330 track hoe, D-5G, D7R dozers, and a D-6 LGP dozer with wide tracks.

Keith Jacks, one of the project managers of CDI in Little Rock, said the largest piece of equipment that will be used on the job is a tower crane from Lewis Equipment in Grand Prairie, TX. The Comedil 561-20 crane has a hook reach of approximately 279 ft.

“The crane is for the concrete and steel erection that starts in September and will be used by multiple trades until the skin of the building is completed,” Jacks said.

For the most part, CDI is functioning as a construction manager on this project. KINCO Constructors LLC of Little Rock is on its team and will be doing the parking lot as a second-tier general contractor.

“Construction on the parking deck starts in June and will take about a year. The Psychiatric Research Institute sits on the west end of the parking deck. Work should begin during the third quarter of this year and take about 16 months. The new patient tower, which also sits on the parking deck in part, will start the third quarter of this year and take about 36 months,” Jacks said.

In addition to the excavation, work is currently being done for the parking deck. That work is almost completed and the parking deck excavation will take approximately 90 days.

According to Jacks, approximately 100 people are working 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., five days a week.

Gehring said contractors work on weekends and after regular business hours as needed.

The project manager of Baldwin & Shell Construction Co., Jeff Crawford, said his company is functioning as a general contractor and will perform some of the work itself, such as building and concrete work, finish carpentry, millwork installation and installation of hollow metal frames.

Projects aren’t all started at the same time, added Crawford, but “We do have several projects that we are working on simultaneously.”

The number of people working on each project and the work hours varies with Crawford’s company.

“It depends a lot on the size of the project and what stage of work we are in. At the residence hall, approximately 60 to 80 workers are on site at any given time. Normal working hours are from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. These are subject to change depending on where we are on the schedule,” Crawford said.

A number of subcontractors will be used for Baldwin & Shell’s projects for site work, site storm sewer work, site utility work, masonry, miscellaneous steel erection, wood framing, waterproofing, roofing, door and finish hardware installation, aluminum storefronts and glazing, drywall, finish and paint, floor covering, fire protection, mechanical, fire alarm, electrical controls, asphalt paving and striping, concrete curb and gutter and landscaping.

Even with the scope of the work at UAMS, “as far as I can tell, it hasn’t had any impact on other projects in the Little Rock area,” Crawford said. CEG