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Okanagan hospitals were a triple challenge

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Building one hospital as a public-private partnership (P3) can be a task, but taking on three in two Interior B.C. cities simultaneously is a daunting challenge.
Okanagan hospitals were a triple challenge

Building one hospital as a public-private partnership (P3) can be a task, but taking on three in two Interior B.C. cities simultaneously is a daunting challenge.

Graham Design Builders successfully did just that by completing the Kelowna and Vernon Hospital (KVH) Project seven months early to earn a Vancouver Regional Construction Association Silver Award of Excellence in the category of a General Contractor over $40 million.

“At the time of construction, it was the largest social infrastructure project that the province had ever done,” said Dave Corcoran, vice-president of Graham’s major commercial projects.

The three LEED Gold projects, two facilities in Kelowna and one in Vernon, are valued at $432 million.

They started in 2008 and were completed in January 2012. The Kelowna General Hospital Centennial Building is a six-storey, 33,000 square metre patient care tower offering general clinics, day surgery, diagnostic services, renal dialysis services and special services, as well as five new operating rooms and a helipad.

The second structure is a UBC and Interior Health Clinical Academic Campus, a two-storey 3,300 square metre teaching building, which will be used by UBC medical students training in Kelowna.

The Vernon Jubilee Hospital Polson Tower consists of a nine-storey, 21,300 square metre patient care tower offering an intensive care unit, a expanded ambulatory care outpatient program, diagnostic facility plus five new operating rooms, maternity and pediatrics wards and two unfinished floors for future use.

“We not only did the construction, but the design” said Corcoran, who was the director of major commercial projects during construction.

The design-build portion of the work was performance-based, rather than prescriptive.

The client specified what went in from door to floor.

Graham’s team evolved the design, made choices, met performance standards of the Interior Health Authority and also the scrutiny of third party audits.

Heavy penalties loomed if Graham failed the performance standards and deadlines.

Grant Beck, vice-president of major commercial projects at the time and now CEO of Graham, said the company focused on being well ahead of the schedule each and every day.

A central team co-ordinated the three teams established for each project.

“We had a management staff of 45 across all three sites,” Corcoran said.

The construction workforce peaked at about 600 workers. Tracking LEED requirements, performance standards and third party validation resulted in a massive paper trail.

Graham counted 585,000 document transactions, 300,000 correspondence items, 13,000 registered documents and 4,500 drawings.

“It is a monumental task,” said Corcoran.

Aconex, a document management company, was brought in to organize the paperwork circulating amongst stakeholders and users.

“We had 700 users on our document control system,” he said.

KVH construction manager Greg Parnell said Graham took another important step.

“We came up with a project charter and teaming agreement,” he said.

It set out the team’s objectives, a good faith negotiating purpose and means of dispute resolution.

“It is very easy to get lost in the details and the emotion, and this gave us the ability to step back and review the guiding principals to move forward,” said Parnell.

All stakeholders signed the charter. This kind of agreement has been loosely formulated in the past, but the charter took it to the next level.

Parnell said an innovative part of the project was Graham’s column-hung forming method.

It allowed the company to gain eight months in the schedule. The buildings were actually finished in November, but not turned over to the owner until after Christmas.

The forming method essentially places the support for the slab onto the building’s columns through braces, transferring the load to the foundation rather than using scaffolding. It allows the crews to move to the next floor without the normal time lag.

The two smaller projects, the academic centre and Vernon project, were finished first.

One of the lessons learned, said Corcoran, was in the area of efficiencies.

“We learned from these earlier projects and what we learned on one site we could bring forward to another,” he said.

The crews and subcontractors that worked on the project were excellent, said Corcoran, as 80 per cent were local on the Kelowna projects and 60 per cent were local at the Vernon site.

“The staff we employed on the project really exemplified professional diligence and worked tirelessly to deliver the project ahead of schedule and to the highest standard,” he said. “The subcontractors and their crews proved themselves to be the best in their field.”

by Jean Sorensen

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