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Excitement Builds for New USA Medical Facility

Thu June 20, 2024 - Southeast Edition #13
Cindy Riley – CEG Correspondent


The $200 million, 250,000-sq.-ft. facility is considered a critical addition to USA’s hub that’s dedicated to healthcare education.
Photo courtesy of University of South Alabama
The $200 million, 250,000-sq.-ft. facility is considered a critical addition to USA’s hub that’s dedicated to healthcare education.
The $200 million, 250,000-sq.-ft. facility is considered a critical addition to USA’s hub that’s dedicated to healthcare education.   (Photo courtesy of University of South Alabama) While construction has a long way to go, there’s already a good deal of excitement surrounding the new structure and the day-to-day activities.   (Photo courtesy of University of South Alabama) Expected to be completed in 2026, the new Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine building on the University of South Alabama (USA) campus will allow the school to graduate more physicians and accelerate research.   (Photo courtesy of University of South Alabama) The site is 5.5 acres. A total of 58,000 cu. yds. of dirt will be disposed of off site.   (Photo courtesy of University of South Alabama)

Expected to be completed in 2026, the new Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine building on the University of South Alabama (USA) campus will allow the school to graduate more physicians and accelerate research. The $200 million, 250,000-sq.-ft. facility is considered a critical addition to USA's hub that's dedicated to healthcare education.

"This is an investment in the future of healthcare to meet the needs of Alabamians," said Dr. John Marymont, dean of the Whiddon College of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs. "By national metrics, this medical school produces high-quality physicians that stay in the state, helping meet the needs in primary care, as well as in rural and underserved areas at an affordable cost."

Photo courtesy of University of South Alabama

The new building also will allow for expanding the class size of first-year medical students from 80 to 100. It also will have the capability of increasing to 120 at a time when the country is facing a likely shortage of healthcare providers. The city of Mobile is donating $10 million to support the project, along with Mobile County's $5 million pledge. The university has set an additional $30 million philanthropic goal to help fund the project.

According to Buckley Kelley, USA's chief facilities management officer, the size of the project calls for hundreds of skilled tradespeople to be on site during the day, with thousands needed over the course of construction. Being able to properly staff the project requires hiring firms with a large geographical footprint and labor pool.

"This is one of the largest, most sophisticated commercial buildings ever built in the city of Mobile," Kelley said. "With the construction market booming across the country, we were concerned about getting enough subcontractor interest to ensure we received competitive pricing.

"Fortunately, we were able to start the prequalification and advertisement process early enough to get the word out to firms large enough to take on the project, and the general contractors were able to get multiple prices for all the trades bidding on the project. The successful low bidder, BL Harbert, has a history of completing large projects and ensuring their subcontractors have the required manpower to complete them."

On the building site, crews are currently installing a sheet pile system that will serve as a temporary retaining wall and allow the team to safely excavate the basement level. Once this is complete, basement excavation will begin, which will be followed by the piling/foundation installation. The process of submitting and reviewing thousands of project specific submittals also must take place, to ensure the materials used on the project have been reviewed by the appropriate design professional and are the correct material for the project.

The construction team also has taken the design team's digital model of the building and is working to coordinate the building structure with all the ductwork, piping, conduit and various HVAC/electrical equipment to best minimize any conflicts that would historically have been discovered during construction.

Kelley said milestones will include completing foundations, cast-in-place concrete basement, structural steel, metal stud framing, dry-in (exterior skin/roof), topping out, in-wall inspections, conditioned air and above-ceiling inspections.

As for how the weather affects the work, Kelley said, "We average 54 rain days a year, and instructed all of the bidders to allow for this in their project schedule. Over the course of a 31-month project, this is almost 140 days that have to be allowed for in the schedule."

David Strain, USA project manager IV, said that a fair amount of site work for the new building was completed as part of the site utility/demolition bid package. This included underground utilities, electrical power, sanitary sewer and storm drainage.

"The Alpha East and Alpha South buildings were abated and demolished as part of the preparatory site package," he said. "Any hazardous materials, such as asbestos pipe insulation, were properly abated and taken to a landfill designated to receive these types of materials. Structural steel, rebar, piping, wiring and concrete were pulled out and recycled.

"Remaining miscellaneous materials were sent to a traditional landfill. Large trackhoes were used to take down the building and sort the materials."

The site is 5.5 acres. A total of 58,000 cu. yds. of dirt will be disposed of off site.

Strain added there will be one tower crane for the bulk of the project, and possibly two other cranes at various times and locations, as well as a material hoist and truck-mounted concrete pumps.

Photo courtesy of University of South Alabama

"The project includes 14 air handlers, seven pumps for hot and chilled water and additional pumps to support the various other systems and generators," Strain said. "The heating and cooling will be provided by chillers and boilers in the campus central utility system."

While construction has a long way to go, there's already a good deal of excitement surrounding the new structure and the day-to-day activities.

"It's very fulfilling," said Kelley. "We all live in the area, have known people that went through the program, we see USA doctors and are proud to be working on a project that will improve not just the College of Medicine, but the university, as well as the city of Mobile.

"We have been working with design team members that have been involved with other world-class medical facilities, and this new building will more than hold its own when compared to similar facilities at older and larger institutions."

The Whiddon College of Medicine is one of 158 accredited MD-granting institutions in the United States, and one of only two in Alabama. More than 1,100 of its graduates are practicing medicine in the state. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, USA consistently ranks in the top tier nationally for graduates practicing in underserved areas. CEG




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