The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, November 23, 2012

Trades wrap up operations at expanded Chelsea Hospital

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

CHELSEA – The building trades have been moving quickly this month to wrap up a new 136,000 square-foot expansion of Chelsea Community Hospital in time for a Dec. 9 open house.

The two-story addition on the south side of the hospital’s campus will include 48 new private patient rooms, six new intensive care rooms, an expanded emergency department and x-ray/imaging areas, a new main entrance, and a café, gift shop and meeting rooms. The addition of new patient rooms will make all the hospital’s rooms private when the facility opens in January 2013.

Christman/Aim Construction has been managing the project, which has proceeded utilizing union trades workers under a Construction Unity Board (CUB) agreement. When the work on the addition is complete, the trades will early next year begin the process of renovation and improvement of the existing hospital. Then a comprehensive cancer center will be built, which will include radiation oncology and allow the hospital to provide a full spectrum of cancer care.

“We’ve had a very cohesive team, we’ve worked very hard to coordinate with the building trades, the subcontractors and the hospital to make sure this project is an asset to the community,” said Mike Adler, senior project superintendent for Christman, who is coordinating the work along with Christman Project Manager Keith Berry. “Everything from saving existing trees on the property to using brick that blends in with downtown buildings, to using local workers, we’re building something that the hospital and the community can be proud of.”

The hospital opened in 1970 in this community west of Ann Arbor and has undergone expansions, renovations and improvements over the years, but none this extensive. In fact, this is likely the largest construction project in Chelsea’s history. “This is a monumental time in the history of our hospital,” said Nancy Graebner, president and CEO of CCH. “This facility is the largest project ever for our hospital and the entire city. We are proud of the new level of comfort and convenience this will bring out patients and families. Everything was done with their needs in mind.”

At peak employment, the project put about 200 Hardhats to work. As of Nov. 3, more than 300,000 man-hours had been worked on the project, with zero recordable safety incidents, zero accidents and zero use of first aid. “We’re particularly proud of that, and I attribute it to the stringent safety program under MUST (Management and Unions Serving Together),” Adler said. “That program really works.”

The hospital has remained open while construction has progressed on the addition. A major challenge took place at the start of the project, with foundations having to be dug down as far as 40 feet because the site is an old peat farm with loose soil. And as the hospital addition progressed, “you can see it’s not a square box, so it’s not necessarily an easy building to build,” Adler said. “But everybody has pitched and worked together well and we’ve worked it out.”

Adler said he read an old article explaining that the original structure’s design came with a Plan B in the late 1960s: in case the Chelsea hospital didn’t work, the building could easily be converted into a Holiday Inn.

“You can see how the original building was configured like a motel,” Adler said, alluding to the set up of the rooms and corridors. “It’s pretty unique. In fact, we dug into the footings of what could have been the pool when we tied into the building.”

Over the years, the city has embraced the hospital, and now the improvements brought about by the merger with Trinity Health and the Saint Joseph Mercy Health System will make the facility viable and convenient for local residents for years to come.

Chelsea Community Hospital’s theme for the new project is “Growing for You,” featuring the image of trees that are used around the hospital and in facility’s wayfinding markers. Patients are expected to be treated in the expanded hospital starting on Dec. 17.

“One of the things we hear so often is that our campus is so beautiful and peaceful, helping patients and families with healing,” Graebner said. “From the beginning of this project, we knew we had to preserve that feeling of peace and serenity that has been part of our culture for 40 years. I believe we have done that with our new facility. It allows us to continue doing what we do best – providing exceptional medical care to our communities – while in a state-of-the-art environment. In the end, that is what it’s all about.”

THE DRIVEWAY AND FRONT entrance to the expanded Chelsea Community Hospital.

TROUBLESHOOTING the fire alarm system on the second floor of the expanded Chelsea Community Hospital is Robert Rearick of IBEW Local 252. He’s employed by Tri-County Electric.

APPLYING FLUX to a 45-degree fitting in a mechanical room at Chelsea Community Hospital is Steve Swartz of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 190. He’s employed by John E. Green.