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New Forensic Center Under Way in Memphis

Wed February 22, 2012 - Southeast Edition
Mary Reed


Artist’s rendering of the entrance to the new building.
Artist’s rendering of the entrance to the new building.
Artist’s rendering of the entrance to the new building. Rendering of the view of the building from Poplar, looking west.

The 32,000 sq. ft. Shelby County Regional Forensic Center, currently under construction in Memphis, Tenn., occupies the former parking space lot of the local juvenile court. The new building will replace the current forensic center, located in a former eye, ear, nose and throat hospital built more than 85 years ago.

The existing center handled more than 900 autopsies last year, about 20 percent of which were carried out on behalf of twelve other counties in the state. Purchased by Shelby County for $1 million some 30 years ago, the building not only needs repairs but also is unsuited to the type of work carried out at the center, a situation exacerbated by technological advances in the medical and forensic fields since it was opened. The new center will serve the western part of the state.

Memphis-based general contractor Inman-EMJ Construction Corporation is construction manager at-risk for the project and was contracted early to provide valuable pre-construction services in addition to overseeing the actual construction.

Roger Sigler, director of business development of Inman-EMJ Construction, described this arrangement as the most cost-effective way to build the center.

“Through collaborating with the design team during the pre-construction phase, value engineering, constructibility review and life-cycle cost analysis are some of the benefits the owner can realize by utilizing this project delivery method,” he said.

Inman-EMJ Construction brings a wealth of experience to the project, having successfully completed a number of healthcare and educational facilities involving similar construction requirements to the new forensic center.

For example, the company completed an $18 million academic building equipped with laboratory classrooms for Southwest Tennessee Community College. It also is building a $49 million College of Pharmacy for the University of Tennessee’s Health Science Center, which also includes a variety of laboratory space, having completed the $23 million Regional Biocontainment Laboratory for the same client.

The Regional Biocontainment Laboratory project involved BSL-2, BSL-3 and ABSL-3 level laboratory space.

“This means it has been designed and constructed according to strict standards for the construction required by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control,” Sigler explained.

Because of the nature of the new facility, the structure requires somewhat uncommon features.

“The forensic center will contain autopsy stations, X-ray suites and mortuary equipment, with skylights over all autopsy stations to provide natural light. The building will be constructed with epoxy floors and solid surfaces on the walls,” Sigler said.

In addition to being more spacious than the existing center, its replacement will also include facilities for medical students and for handling mass casualties after incidents such as rail or plane crashes.

Work began in late January 2011, with an estimated time of completion of March 2012. It was on schedule at this writing despite uncovering unsuitable soils when sitework began. The necessary undercut and backfill with engineered fill to correct the problem has been completed, and the building pad is in the process of being poured.

Equipment working on-site includes machinery manufactured by John Deere and Caterpillar. The value of the contract is $9.8 million, funded by the state. According to a press report the county has entered a leasing arrangement with the state under which it will pay 62 percent of the cost in payments spread over 20 years. After that the county will be able to buy the building if it chooses.

Founded in 1968, EMJ Construction Corporation has built more than 500 million sq. ft. in construction projects located across the nation. Licensed in 44 states, it offers pre-construction and construction services to healthcare, industrial, education, hospitality, entertainment, commercial and retail clients from offices in Boston, Chattanooga, Tenn., Dallas, Memphis, Tenn., and Sacramento, Calif. EMJ Construction purchased Inman Construction in March 2010, making the company a branch office of EMJ using the joint name of Inman-EMJ Construction for marketing purposes.

Notable Memphis area projects carried out by Inman-EMJ Construction include the AutoZone Headquarters, AutoZone Park, the University Center at the University of Memphis, Campbell Clinic, Sutherland Cardiology, as well as multiple projects for the Baptist and Methodist Healthcare systems.

Other healthcare projects the company has handled include the Darryl Worley Cancer Treatment Center and the Hardin Medical Center, both located in Savannah, Tenn., and renovation of the Northwest Medical Center in Springdale, Ariz. It also worked on the Gastro One Clinic in Bartlett, Tenn., Baptist Hospital - Golden Triangle in Columbus, Miss., and the Forrest City Medical Center in Forrest City, Ark.