Workers hoisted to the second level of the new Carl T. Platou Emergency Department by a pair of JLG lifts work on the façade of the new building in early April of this year.
When construction ends on a new emergency department for one of Minnesota’s premier heart hospitals; staff, donors and patients will have two reasons to celebrate. Not only will Fairview Southdale Hospital open its doors to an emergency department four times larger than its predecessor, it also will celebrate its 50th anniversary.
The 100 year-old Knutson Construction Company with offices in Wayzata and Rochester, Minn., two in Iowa and one in Wisconsin, took on the $42 million project. With an employee base of 500 and experience in 18 states, Knutson specializes in building major facilities in the health care, government and education industries.
Fairview Southdale Hospital is located in Edina, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis at the crossroads of TH 62 and France Avenue, a high volume four lane highway and a four lane city arterial.
The eight story, 500,000 sq. ft. (45,000 sq m) multispecialty hospital is known for its heart, stroke and cancer care as well as serving the community as a Level III Trauma Center. The emergency department, originally built to serve 30,000 patients per year, now sees more than 47,000 patients a year and will have a capacity for 70,000 visits a year, according to the hospital Web site.
The new Carl N. Platou Emergency Center, named in honor of a long time Fairview leader, is a two story addition at the front of the hospital. Benefits of the upgrade include faster triage and emergency services and larger rooms equipped for trauma, heart and stroke victims, according to the hospital Web site.
Largely unchanged since 1985, the emergency department grows from 15,000 sq. ft. (1,350 sq m) to 65,000 sq. ft. (5,850 sq m) of emergency and observation space and increases the number of patient rooms from 29 to 43. It also will be home to the Popp Center for Chronic Disease to provide focused care for people with chronic health problems.
The helipad, formerly located on the front lawn was moved to the roof of an auxiliary building attached to the main hospital. At its new location, pilots will now have three, instead of two flight paths to make their landings.
The second floor will be set aside for observation rooms for patients still requiring attention yet no longer in need of emergency care.
Visually and architecturally, the owner aimed for a new and striking image of the hospital for the city of Edina, its staff, patients and the public.
Facing TH 62, the emergency room addition designed by HDA Arichtects, based in Chesterfield, Mo., will feature a façade partially graced by a descending arc flowing downward and out from the second to first floor. Covered by glass panels of various shades and back lit by LED lighting, the arc will appear to be glowing in the night time, said Gervase Kieffer, Knutson construction superintendent.
During daylight hours, the remaining section of the façade, covered with Dri-Design metal panels applied with a Valspar-Fluropon product will shift in color depending on the sun angle.
“It’s unique, it’s going to look cool when it is all said and done,” Kieffer said.
The second floor is recessed in from the main level and designed for a third floor expansion. A canopy flowing across the new emergency room entrance will protect visitors and patients from the sun and rain.
When the first backhoe dug into the ground in September, 2013 and 50 years after construction started on the original hospital, Knutson staff faced a number of challenges.
The eight story, Y shaped hospital facility is hemmed in by France Avenue and a service road that wraps around most of the campus area. Inside these road boundaries, the fenced in construction site is nestled in between the main body of the hospital and one of its two wings.
Tight space, temporary work stoppages to accommodate surgery and radiology schedules and very close coordination with sub-contractors and material deliveries were predominant on this project.
And the winter of 2014, notable for its bitter cold, heavy snow and length followed by a wet spring further vexed the schedule at times.
During the excavation phase of the project, workers mixed daily with a dozen or so pieces of heavy equipment roaming the tiny space and dozens of dump trucks driving in and out to remove excavated material.
Crews dug down approximately 20 ft. (6 m) and trucked out an estimated 19,000 cu. yd. (14,527 cu m) of excavated material to make room for the lower level utility room and to pour the footings.
For the excavation work, part of the heavy equipment inventory included two Cat backhoes, a Komatsu backhoe, a Cat 930H dozer, a Dynapac roller and a Bobcat T190. A Terex HC50 crane handled the heavy structural elements of the building.
Eventually, several JLG lifts moved onto the site for the siding work.
The tight space required close coordination with sub-contractors to make timely deliveries that were mostly scheduled in advance.
“There’s not a whole lot of lay down space off the front of the hospital here and we’re trying to build and put everything in place. So we get deliveries the day before they are needed or on the day we’re actually putting the materials in,” Kieffer said.
What is commonly known as a “just in time delivery system” was put to good use on this project to schedule material deliveries. Common on urban construction projects, it is anchored on very close communication with suppliers and truckers. Most contractors are familiar with it, added Micah Vrieze, Knutson assistant manager.
Load restrictions imposed by the city of Edina during the first two concrete pours added another dynamic to the delivery and traffic challenges. Weight limits on local streets forced concrete deliveries to be split between two and sometimes three separate loads to comply with the weight restrictions.
“For our first deck pour, we needed 340 yards of concrete so we split the loads from 7 yards at the most down to 3 yards to maintain the restricted weight limits,” Kieffer said.
After the initial two concrete pours, though, city staff granted a variance to Knutson Construction “that allowed us to bring in full loads,” Kieffer said.
An estimated total of 6,150 cu. yds. (4,702 cu m) of concrete was poured and 416 ton (374 t) of rebar was installed for the concrete portions of the structure.
During concrete pours, several flagmen controlled truck traffic coming from the street entrance turning onto hospital property and at the main gate to the construction site. During the largest pour, flagmen routed 50 trucks in and out of the construction site.
Surgery and radiology exams sometimes pre-empted daily construction activities. The outside noise had a huge impact indoors “so, we had meetings, a lot of conversation to make sure that everybody on both sides of the job could get their work done,” Kieffer said.
Even picks by the crane operator were halted at the last minute by helicopter ambulance flights. The construction site stationed with the Terex boom crane, was located very near the helipad which posed a potential landing threat to the pilots.
“There was direct communication between hospital security people and our crane operator. When a helicopter neared the hospital, they would call our crane operator and he would drop the boom down,” said Roger Hunwardsen, Knutson senior project manager.
Then there was the heavy snow and brutal cold sitting over the Midwest in 2014 that sliced into the schedule during the first year of construction.
“That winter probably impacted us six weeks. The whole schedule slid due to that winter,” Kieffer said.
“There were multiple days during the winter of 2014 when it was just too cold to start the equipment. We had some negative 16, 17, 18 degree days,” Hundwardsen added.
The brutal cold formed frost in some areas of the site that bit 7 ft. (2.1 m) deep into the soil, Hundwardsen continued.
“We had the hammers out on frozen ground so that’s been difficult. It’s such a small site and we’re dealing with a working hospital. We’re right next door to the MRI unit and the eye surgery unit so we had to work around their schedules.”
“We had to chip away at the frozen ground to get below the frost line and start scratching those soft areas so we could start pouring the footings. In some areas, we had the ground thawing equipment out.”
Then, Hundwarsen continued, “once the concrete was poured, we had to blanket it to prevent it from freezing underneath. There was a lot of labor and a lot of material to keep the concrete from freezing. We were two or three blankets deep in some areas.”
Even though the weather forced Knutson staff to revise the schedule and add several weeks onto the work schedule, it will not impact the scheduled completion date.
Originally, “we were going to turn it over to the owner in March. Now, it will be this June or July and it will open in August to coincide with the hospital’s anniversary date. We really did not have to make up any time,” Hunwardsen said.
The project schedule also called for two, huge air handling units to be installed early.
“So, while we were forming the decks, we actually flew them in place so crews could start putting them together so they would be ready for use to heat the building for the winter of 2015,” Kieffer said.
Armstrong Crane and Rigging Corporation, located in New Brighton, Minn., brought in a Grove 250 ton (225 t) crane to fly the air handlers into place and a Grove 175 ton (158 t) to fly the air intake duct into place.
After the frost finally worked its way out of the ground a year ago, the first floor began rising from the ground. Concrete crews completed the pour for the first floor in April, 2014 just shortly after the cold winter relinquished its hold on the area. The last structural deck pour took place last July.
Interior work began in August, 2014 with crews completing the roof in December, 2014. The exterior walls were recently completed.
Tradesmen are now hard at work installing the internal electrical and mechanical systems. Kieffer ticked off a litany of internal systems going into the new emergency facilities.
“You have the duct work, you have the electrical lines, several types of communication cables, fire sprinkler lines, heating lines for radiation, chilled water for air conditioning, med gas piping and waste and water piping."
“We have doors in here that probably have five different systems hooked up to them. Each room is individually controlled by a variable air volume box (VAV) box which distributes air off the air handling unit,” Kieffer said.
As the internal work continues and the exterior work wraps up, hospital staff are looking forward to opening the doors to the Carl N. Platou Emergency Center for the first time.
Knutson Construction is on schedule to turn the new emergency department over to the owner by this July while Fairview Southdale staff prepare for grand opening ceremonies and commemorating the hospital’s 50th anniversary at the same time.