Challenges Abound on Pa. Hospital Expansion Project

Fri February 19, 2010 - Northeast Edition
Jennifer Hetrick

Members of the Norwood team gather to enjoy the topping off ceremony. (L-R) are Harry Kamnik, senior project manager; Eric Urbanski, project executive;  Homer May, superintendent; Tim Kelly, marketing/sales;  Gary Pearce, assistant superintendent; Joe Mit
Members of the Norwood team gather to enjoy the topping off ceremony. (L-R) are Harry Kamnik, senior project manager; Eric Urbanski, project executive; Homer May, superintendent; Tim Kelly, marketing/sales; Gary Pearce, assistant superintendent; Joe Mit
Members of the Norwood team gather to enjoy the topping off ceremony. (L-R) are Harry Kamnik, senior project manager; Eric Urbanski, project executive;  Homer May, superintendent; Tim Kelly, marketing/sales;  Gary Pearce, assistant superintendent; Joe Mit According to project superintendent Joe Sliwinski, the tire wash was an invaluable piece of equipment on-site, particularly during the rainy months, both for keeping the equipment in good condition and for keeping Doylestown clean. The final beam swings into place at the emergency department topping off ceremony, held on March 12, 2009. Once the underground work was complete, the parking garage went up with remarkable speed, taking only four weeks from the ground up. A particularly rainy June made getting the roof on the emergency department a longer than expected process. But once that was completed, crews were making up the delayed time inside. “The huge red crane” became a familiar landmark in Doylestown, going from the hospital project to a parking lot project several blocks away over the course of several months.

As recently as 20 years ago, motorists traveling on state Route 611 near Doylestown, Pa., could take the bypass past the historic town and the modest hospital, one of the only landmarks along the bypass, and quickly find themselves driving through stretches of nothing but farmland.

Not so today. Doylestown and nearby communities such as Buckingham and Solebury have experienced tremendous growth, particularly in the last 10 years. This growth, showing up in housing developments, schools and strip malls, also has shown up in Doylestown hospital, where the Emergency Department (ED) has seen a 60-percent increase in the number of patients coming through its doors. The recent closing of another nearby ED also has added to that volume.

So the women of the Village Improvement Association (V.I.A.), whose past members began raising funds to build a hospital in Doylestown in 1907, have joined with other benefactors to raise the money to build a modern extension, including a 39-room ED, a 40-bed medical/surgical unit and a 493-space parking garage.

At the vanguard of the expansion project is Norwood-McManus, a Joint Venture LLC, under the guidance of Eric Urbanski, project executive; Harry Kamnik, senior project manager; Joe Sliwinski, project superintendent; all of The Norwood Company, Malvern, Pa.; and Michael McManus, vice president of John S. McManus Inc., Chester Heights, Pa. With an extensive list of subcontractors on-site, Norwood-McManus is helping the hospital grow to fit current and future needs, a project that began nearly two years ago.

On May 12, 2008, physicians, hospital associates, architects, contractors, major donors, elected officials and hospital board and V.I.A. members broke ground for the project. Less than a year later, on March 12, 2009, a topping off ceremony was held, with many of the same dignitaries in attendance. In all that time, much has happened and many people have been involved on the site.

H.T. Sweeney & Son Inc., Brookhaven, Pa., began its part of the project, which includes excavating and grading, water/sewer/storm utilities, concrete curb and sidewalk and asphalt paving in July 2008. A team that varies from five to 12 members has been relying on Cat excavation and grading equipment, Moxy and Volvo articulated trucks because, according to Gregg Helsel, that equipment gives them, “reliability, parts availability and uniformity of iron.”

Helsel’s team expects to complete its work by spring despite some setbacks that, according to Helsel, included, “the depth of existing water lines being greater than we anticipated and the rock being more shallow than expected. The proximity to the existing hospital and medical office building made coordination with blasting, which was subbed to American Rock Mechanics Inc., much more critical. Staging material was a challenge due to a small area in which to work.”

Sharing that small area, and working closely with H.T. Sweeney is plumbing contractor E.J. Raith Mechanical Inc., West Chester, Pa. E.J. Raith began working last summer and is scheduled to complete the job in 2010. According to Jim Raith, the biggest challenges the 25-man team has faced so far have concerned the weather, which, “has not agreed with us.”

Electrical contractor Robert Ford Electric Company, Bryn Mawr, Pa., has been on the job since late last fall and plans to be finished in early 2010. “Robert Ford is providing the complete construction of all power, lights, fire safety and low voltage for the new facility, which includes a 1,000 KVA generator with paralleling gear for a future 1,000 KVA generator, two 35 k services with two 2,000 KVA transformers, fire alarm, nurses call, full environmental fit up and site improvements,” said David Pascoe.

“This will improve the hospital’s capability to serve patients more efficiently with 39 dedicated treatment bays, two fully equipped resuscitation rooms and a newly installed digital radiology unit dedicated to the ED, including a CT unit,” added Kamnik.

The construction of this comprehensive electrical system has so far required a team of seven, and Pascoe expects to have as many as 26 workers on-site as the project progresses.

“The project team has been exceptional,” Pascoe said, “and we have not encountered any major challenges on the job to date.”

Burns Mechanical, Horsham, Pa., is providing complete medical gas and HVAC systems for the emergency department and patient care expansion, including extensive modifications to the hospital’s existing CUP. A challenge to the project was routing 5,000 ft. (1,524 m) of new utility piping from the existing CUP through the operating hospital, feeding the new wing’s central air handling stations, heating hot water generators, humidification system and medical gas equipment. The existing DDC system at Doylestown Hospital was provided by Burns Mechanical, so Burns in-house experts assisted in the design and integration of the new systems with the existing DDC systems. Burns will provide startup and commissioning services for the owner, and will operate and maintain the new building systems after completion in March 2010.

Starting in August 2009, Otis Elevator Company began working on the ED expansion, which was completed in January. Otis’s work on the parking garage began in September and was finished up in December.

Two teams of two installers were expected on-site for the ED and one team of two installers will be able to handle the work on the parking garage. Otis Gen2 elevators will be installed in both new sections of the hospital.

The parking garage went up with remarkable speed, requiring two months of underground work but only four weeks from the ground up. Part of this speed was due to innovative thinking in terms of storing supplies.

“The erection of the parking garage, with the ongoing site work on the ED, provided a challenge simply in terms of limited storage space. What we were able to do to facilitate the needs of the garage was stockpile materials on unused portions of the Route 202 bypass project, which we are also a part of. This required a lot of additional coordination in terms of moving the supplies from the bypass to the hospital site, but because the supplies could be kept nearby, we were able to get them here quickly and put the garage up in only four weeks,” Sliwinski explained.

No amount of coordination can control Mother Nature, however, and Sliwinski too cited the weather as a large obstacle to getting work done as the team geared up for the autumn season, another time of changeable weather.

“In the late spring and early summer, there was a large amount of rain. In June [2009] the rainfall was well above average, just as we were trying to put the roof on. We ended up being about a month behind schedule on that simply because of the weather. Now [at the end of September] we’re running at 100 percent inside the building and we’re on track to recover that one-month delay and make up the time. Fifty percent of the ED is drywalled and the ceiling grids have started going in. We will start the finishes at the end of October. Naturally, as soon as I got that roof on, it stopped raining,” Sliwinski concluded with a laugh, “The weather’s been great ever since.”

Urbanski, too, is confident that the project will wrap up on time.

“This project has endured multiple challenges from the start with the blasting of rock that was unexpected to the very wet June, which had rain every day other than one twenty-four hour period. As the building was being enclosed and the crew was attempting to put the roof on, this became a daily problem. With those issues aside, the project is scheduled for completion on March 1, 2010, with the project hitting a peak of 169 workers.”