The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, January 11, 2013

Patient tower at St. Joseph-Pontiac creates more room for everybody

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

PONTIAC – The delivery of health care has changed just a bit since the first building on the campus of St. Joseph Mercy Oakland was erected in 1927.

“Well, it’s still evolving,” said Jack Weiner, President and  CEO of St. Joseph Mercy-Oakland. “Things have changed from even five or 10 years ago, with one example – the need for larger patient rooms to accommodate families. Now with the new South Patient Tower, we’re building a truly healing environment, and building in an efficient, cost-effective infrastructure that’s safer for both patients and staff.”

Construction of the South Patient Tower, on the site of a demolished parking deck, began about a year ago. Barton Malow is managing the project, which is expected to wrap up in February 2014. The eight-story, 301,000-square-foot tower will feature 208 private, technologically enhanced patient rooms, providing plenty of support space for family and friends, whom St. Joseph Mercy Oakland says are “vital to the healing process.”

The $140 million project is “the culmination of nearly $400 million in investment here over the last eight years,” Weiner said. “We have technically rebuilt the entire place.”

Building the South Patient Tower is in line with the biggest trend in health care construction projects in recent years: offering private rooms to patients. Becoming rarer in hospitals are cramped two-patient rooms, with the space dominated by two beds and a little room left over for visitor chairs.

Roomier private rooms in the new St. Joseph Mercy Oakland tower will provide ceiling-mounted lifts to help staff safely move patients. The layout will minimize patient disruptions by separating patients from supplies. “Computerized beds” will further limit disruptions to patients by electronically monitoring and transmitting their vital signs to the nurses’ station.

Patient rooms will have bigger windows. Next to the patient beds, family members will have their own controls for lights, television volume and ports to charge electronic devices. And more than 220 Michigan artists entered their work in a hospital-sponsored call for artists to adorn the rooms, walls and public areas with paintings, tile, sculpture and other pieces of art that will be integrated into the design of the building.

Wider doors and new physical pathways in common areas will ease the flow of movement for staff, patients and visitors. St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Director of Construction and Design Jim Saleh pointed out that patient floor hallways will feature patient charting alcoves off the main corridor, providing space for medical staff to converse or make notes without obstructing traffic. Further, three “team collaboration spaces” on each floor will allow convenient private areas for medical, nursing and support staff to plan patient care among themselves.

Computer-aided design was a major factor in the project. “The BIM (Building Information Modeling) process really helped us coordinate all aspects of construction before we started,” Saleh said. “It helped us with the hallways and patient rooms, but where it’s really valuable is coordinating the space above the ceiling. We’re packing in a lot of pipe, wire and ductwork, and things can start getting crowded up there.”

On the main floor, the hospital’s main entry will be redesigned with skylights and other amenities. A new Emergency Department entry drive and new ambulance parking area will be created. Parking has also been reconfigured in other areas.

Overall aesthetic elements also will endeavor to soften and unify the facility’s interior appearance.  The parent of St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, Trinity Health, has had considerable experience in the past few years designing and expanding its health care facilities. Chelsea Community Hospital last month wrapped up the biggest expansion in its history. In November , St. Mary Mercy Hospital in Livonia opened a 154,000-square-foot addition that contains 80 private patient rooms. And St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor completed two new patient towers in recent years, East in 2007 and North in 2010.

“We’re a large system and we’re taking the best of what they did and are applying it here,” Weiner said. “Barton Malow and the building trades have done a fantastic job and have great collaborators on this project. They take great pride in what they’re doing.”

One of the most visible changes at the Pontiac facility is a new climate-controlled pedestrian bridge connecting associate parking on the east side of Woodward Avenue with the main hospital on the west side.

When asked about major challenges on the project, Weiner didn’t skip a beat: he said at the top of the list was getting the necessary permits to erect the bridge over Woodward. The paperwork took more than 14 months to be approved. “It took awhile, but we really had great cooperation from the state in getting that done,” Weiner said. “Moving the parking has really made construction a lot simpler.”

Saleh said that much of the bridge work was prefabricated because it had so many elements. Structural steel, glass, roofing and climate control systems for the span were all assembled off site, and trucked in. The bridge was pre-assembled into two sections.  Both sections were hoisted in place on one weekend.  The second weekend, the trades worked around the clock to complete the enclosure.  As part of this process, Woodward had to be shut down during those periods. And, the public had to be informed, signs were set up, and Woodward traffic had to be rerouted, even ambulances.

“The bridge went up without a hitch, and really, this has been a smooth job all around, thanks to the teamwork between the hospital and Barton Malow,” Saleh said.

Last month about 120 Hardhats were erecting the new South Patient Tower, and the construction workforce will peak at about 250 or so by next spring, said Barton Malow General Supt. John Pierman. “There are excellent tradespeople here,” he said. “They’re doing nice work.”

THE EIGHT-STORY South Patient Tower under construction at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland will offer larger patient rooms, plus more space for staff and other efficiencies. Barton Malow is managing construction of the project.
BENDING AROUND second floor ceiling pipes at the South Patient Tower is Tommy Hurst of Michigan Painters District Council 1M. He’s about to apply accoustical caulking.
JOURNEYMAN ELECTRICIAN Bob Gonko looks over the shoulder of apprentice Chris Crimmins working in what will be a second floor ICU patient room at the South Patient Tower. The IBEW Local 58 members are working for Motor City Electric.