Turner Construction is the general contractor on the $300 million Austin State Hospital (ASH), which included the demolition of 14 structures to make way for the new facility.(Turner Construction photo)
The ongoing construction of the $304,600,000 Austin State Hospital (ASH), being constructed by Turner Construction Company on behalf of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is proceeding full steam ahead.
The 240-bed hospital, located in the north central portion of the growing city at 4110 Guadalupe St., is expected to be delivered at the end of the year. The new three-story, split-level structure on a 15-acre site, with 374,000 gross sq. ft. of space, is replacing an existing hospital complex that was started in 1861, which currently provides services in several buildings.
Contractor at Work
Last November, construction surpassed the half-way point and is currently 85 percent completed.
To this point, Turner Construction has completed demolition, utilities, foundations, structure and building envelope. The remaining work consists of building conditioning, interiors build out and completion of site work and landscaping.
"Due to the vast amount of work in and around the Austin area, there has been a shortage of construction workforce labor," said Turner Project Manager Michael Balch. "To mitigate this, we've implemented strategic acceleration based on work availability and critical scope to complete and continuously work to provide the trades enough runway to work safely and efficiently. For a while in 2021 and into 2022, the project was impacted by material shortages and shipping constraints. As a result, there were a few activities that had to be installed out of sequence. Since then, material shortages and supply chain issues have been minimal, which allows crews to work in the plan's proper sequence, which promotes smooth, safe and efficient installations."
"Being on an old campus, there have been plenty of underground surprises," Balch added, "however, nothing that hasn't been overcome. In some instances, we've worked in conjunction with the campus's maintenance staff and design partners to develop alternate design solutions to help avoid potential existing utility conflicts. Relations with the maintenance and operational staff is good. We frequently meet to coordinate work and are sensitive to how construction activities may have an impact on the existing facilities and its patients."
All work is currently taking place during the day.
"With the building erected and building envelope in place, a majority of the work occurs in the interior, thus naturally reducing noise permeating outside of the construction site," said Balch. "There is still heavy equipment operating outside and we are in constant contact with campus maintenance and operations staff on what activities are ongoing and what noises and vibrations may occur as a result."
The new hospital is being constructed on an already developed site, with 14 ancillary buildings demolished in order to find the site area for the new hospital. The first step was to remove the asbestos from the old structures.
"Demolition was completed in 2020," said Balch. "No further buildings are to be demolished under the current program."
With the demolition out of the way, efforts could focus on the earthwork and site prep.
"The plan was to prep the building pad and build the structure in a clockwise rotation starting at the new hospital's Central Utility Plant," stated Turner Construction. "To prep, we had to remove native soil and replace it with a compacted flexible base. Site prep including demolition, with utilities and earthwork performed in 2020 and 2021. Cast-in-place piers, slabs and columns make up 80 percent of the structure, with the roof being supported by structural steel, trusses and metal decking."
The new utilities include storm drain, wastewater, fire water and domestic water.
Next came the pouring of the concrete for the foundations.
"Foundations were prepped and poured over several months, the majority of which were completed in 2021," said Balch. "The building structure calls for concrete — piers, slab on grade, columns, and elevated slab decks — with structural steel atop the highest columns to support the roof structure."
Work on the foundations and structural work were supported by three tower cranes.
The steel framing was placed between mid-2021 and mid-2022.
"Since steel sat atop concrete, the plan was for the structural steel to follow the concrete work," said Balch. "Challenges were getting steel to the project site on time. During steel operations we [and many others] were facing supply chain and material availability issues. The work was done in a clockwise fashion, following concrete."
The steel beams were delivered as needed, with the tower cranes hoisting and placing several beams daily. The concrete floors were poured over several months in 2021 and 2022.
The majority of the exterior wall is a cavity wall consisting of (from in to out) cold formed metal framing, sheathing, waterproofing membrane, insulation and façade — a combination of brick, stone, metal panels, curtain wall and punched windows.
"The plan was to start at the central utility plant and follow the structural steel in a clockwise manner," said Balch. "The challenges were having all materials needed on hand in order to develop and maintain a consistent flow and sequence of work. The curtain wall system at the gym was built-in-place and the punched windows came prefabricated."
The TPO roof was installed in approximately nine months with the help of the tower cranes.
The design and engineering teams successfully resolved three challenges.
"Multiple stories to reduce travel distance while maintaining courtyard access, ‘simple' mechanical systems to facilitate maintenance, and minimizing the ‘institutional' feel of the building with different material massings," stated the Page team. "The anticipated building envelope has a life expectancy of 40 to 50 years, building systems 25 to 30 years and interior construction 15 to 20 years. The building design is highly energy efficient and incorporates best practices, while also meeting SECO requirements. It is not seeking LEED certification."
"We're removing the ‘stigma' of mental health through a beautiful and innovative building that responds to the needs of the clients and help in the healing process," said Renu Razdan of HHSC.
There are no significant traffic issues as the work area ties the campus back into the city street grid with the 43rd Street extension.
"With multiple adjacent campus entrances and minimal work required to tie into city right of ways, traffic has not been much of a concern during construction," said the Page team.
Work on the hospital's outdoor elements should start this summer. Crews will establish two large parking areas, with road access from North Lamar Boulevard through 43rd Street, and additional access east of the facility with a road leading directly to the main lobby.
Peak days so far have 493 Turner staff and trade partners on-site. There are more than 100 subcontractors, with the larger ones being Champion Site Work for site work, WPM for site utilities, Graywolf for structural steel, United Forming for concrete, Tumlinson Electric and Schmidt Electric for electrical work, Capital Industries and MLN HVAC for HVAC, Standard Drywall for drywall installation, Carrco for painting, H2I for millwork, Admiral Glass and MS Glass for glass and glazing, and Flooring Solutions for flooring.
The engineering and structural consultants for the project are: Page — architect and fire protection engineer; architecture + — associate architect; AEI Engineering — mechanical/plumbing engineer; CNG Engineering — electrical engineer; Datum Rios Engineering — structural engineer; Garza EMC — civil engineering; Datacom Engineering — low voltage/security/audiovisual; and Asakura Robinson - landscape consultant.
About the Project
The ASH project is part of more than $1 billion that the Texas Legislature and Gov. Greg Abbott have dedicated to the revitalization of the state psychiatric hospital system. The funding is being used for the construction and renovation of state hospitals in Austin, Kerrville, Rusk and San Antonio, as well as the construction of new hospitals in Houston and Dallas. Construction was recently completed on the John S. Dunn Behavioral Sciences Center in Houston. Combined, the construction projects will add at least 500 new inpatient psychiatric beds in Texas within the next three years.
ASH has been operating since 1861 and is the oldest hospital in Texas for the care and treatment of people with mental illness. It provides in-patient psychiatric care for residents of central Texas, which includes competency restoration services for people who have been determined incompetent to stand trial and long-term treatment for individuals who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity. ASH is among 11 state hospitals that the HHSC owns. CEG
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