Sutter Health, Eden Medical Center
Schedule

Digby Christian

The Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley project has been recognized throughout the construction industry as a unique project in design and approach, catching the interest of architects and builders throughout the world. We sat down with Digby Christian, Sutter Health Project Manager, for a closer look at what makes this project unique.

Q. Why is this project different than other projects you and the team members have been involved in?

One of the unique features of the project team is that we have an 11-party contract, with the non-owner members putting all of their profit at risk. I’m very confident that’s a unique set-up in the United States.

Another unique feature is that the trade contractors involved in the design and construction of the new hospital have a goal of achieving a fully coordinated, constructable, affordable design, complete with fabrication drawings, before the facility is even built. We do not want to resolve issues in the field during construction. We want to resolve them all as part of completing the design rather than in the field during construction when change orders are costly and time-consuming.

Q. There is a lot of emphasis on the team approach to this project. Who participates in the regular project team meetings?  How do they work together?

The Project Team is managed by a six-member team called the Core Group. I’m on it representing Sutter Health, as is Bryan Daylor, Eden’s Vice President of Ancillary & Support Services, representing Eden Medical Center. The other four members are from DPR Construction (general contractor), Capital Engineering (mechanical and plumbing design), Devenney Group (architectural design), and J.W. McClenahan (plumbing). We meet every two weeks to ensure the project is managing all the risks as optimally as possible. All decisions are required to be unanimous, and for the two years that we’ve been meeting, we have met that requirement.

A much larger group comprising all the designers, builders and specialty consultants meets at least every two weeks to resolve any strategic issues affecting the whole project. There are also subgroups that meet almost daily to keep information flowing fast and efficiently through the project team.

What are the benefits of this team approach?

You get a fully informed designed. You get an efficient plan for construction. But the main thing you gain is certainty about scope, cost and completion date.  These large projects traditionally go a long way over budget and finish very late and with compromises to the goals that the owner had. We worked hand in glove with each other for close to 18 months to get the cost of the project down without altering any of the goals for the building, and now for at least a year I have been completely confident of our ability to get the triple victory of on budget, on time, and with all the goals intact. That’s a tremendous difference from traditional delivery of these complex, expensive, long duration projects.

What have you learned by this approach?

That it works. To make it work requires that a very large team of people works very hard all day, every day for years. But if the owner’s goals are clear, and the team is working under a contract that puts their interests completely in alignment with the owner’s interests, that that monumental level of effort is exactly what you can get out of a team.  Hospital construction in California is some of the most complex, most strictly regulated, construction in the world and it is extraordinarily unforgiving of oversights and errors. To deliver a hospital on time, on budget with no compromises to what the owner and community want is about as ambitious as it gets in construction at this stage in our industry’s evolution.

How has this changed construction projects for the system? For the industry?

It’s been a tremendous proof of concept for how Sutter Health would like to deliver its projects.  And because the project has been written about in various trade publications and has now won two awards for its delivery model, it does have the potential to be a game-changing project in the industry. I would like it to be just that. Our modern society deserves a rock-solid reliable delivery method for these critical facilities, and until now, in my opinion it has not had that.

If you have any questions for Digby or any member of the team, please feel free to let us know or send us your comments.

In less than 36 hours, our Laurel Grove Hospital was completely demolished, leaving behind not just the debris for recycling, but also more than 45 years of memories.

bobbosold

My name is Bob Bosold, and I am the Project Director for Eden Medical Center. I’ve worked at Eden for 33 years, starting out as an engineer back in 1977. My career at Eden spans thousands of projects that define the buildings of Eden Medical Center. Early on I managed projects ranging from simple office designs and renovations to major expansions and development. Among them are the development of Baywood Court Retirement Community and the complete remodel of Laurel Grove Hospital back in 1990. More recently the renovation of the 6th floor Sutter East Bay Neuroscience Center and the Emergency Department.

Today, I manage projects on the hospital campus, including issues related to the new hospital construction. The demolition of Laurel Grove Hospital is perhaps one of the more bittersweet projects on campus. On the one hand, it symbolizes the progress of our new hospital. On the other, it means the end of a great facility that provided care for thousands of patients and was home to so many great employees. I was a patient at Laurel Grove following knee surgery five years ago, and the care I received was excellent. Yes, it was sad to see the old hospital go.

From a facilities perspective, the demolition of Laurel Grove was far more complex than the actual deconstruction photos show. Our last patient at Laurel Grove was discharged home in December 2009, and the final employee celebration was held December 30. From that moment on, our teams worked to identify and remove virtually every piece of equipment, furniture, fixture and countless other things people don’t even think about that support a hospital structure, such as boilers, propane and diesel fuel tanks, an emergency generator and air conditioning chiller.

Where Did It All Go?

While our patient care staff worked to transfer all patient records to Eden, our facilities team focused on assessing all of the equipment from the rooftop all the way down to the soil. We cleared out major rooms such as Radiology and the kitchen, and gathered the smallest of items found in desk drawers and cabinets. All equipment was identified and relocated according to areas of greatest need and value. In other words, some equipment was given new life where needed at Eden or San Leandro Hospital, or at another Sutter Health facility, or donated to another hospital or clinic in need. This by far was the most gratifying part of this project.

Some equipment was sold or stripped for parts for use where needed, but that represents a small percentage compared to what we were able to reuse or recycle. Although Laurel Grove looked small from the outside, it held a significant amount of furniture (hospital beds, tables, curtains, chairs), office equipment (desks, bookcases, filing cabinets) and supplies (wheelchairs, walkers, office supplies) and so much “stuff” in every room.

Fortunately, we found a home for almost everything. Our specialized LaserOptics equipment was donated to UC Berkeley Vision Sciences and their School of Ophthalmology. Physical and occupational therapy equipment, wheelchairs, walkers and related items were donated to Alameda County Medical Center and several other clinics. Much of our furniture, office supplies, cabinetry and kitchen equipment made its way to schools, clinics, local businesses and organizations including MedShare, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving healthcare through the redistribution of surplus medical supplies and equipment to developing countries. I would have to say that about 95 percent of the interior equipment was donated or used elsewhere. The rest was recycled along with the building (more on this later).

What’s next?

Once the abatement was complete and the connection between the hospital and adjacent medical office building was closed and remodeled and new walkways installed, the old hospital was torn down in less than two days. From the street, what is left looks like a big pile of rubble. But what is really happening behind the fence is amazing. Over the next two weeks, virtually every part of the building and site will be recycled: metals, woods, plastics, concrete, vegetation, landscape materials, all of it.

The metal is separated from the fiber by a large sorter on site. All the metal will be recycled, and the fiber material will be sent to Waste Management, where it will be used in composting and come back to life as, among other things, potting soil! Some of the material will find new life as colored bark that is used in gardens. And best of all, the concrete (including Laurel Grove’s foundation), will be ground up, set aside and later used as site fill on the  new hospital site.  Laurel Grove will live on.

Here is a quick look at how the materials are separated for recycling at the site:

By April 15, the Laurel Grove site will become a paved parking lot for the hundreds of contractors working on the project. Once the underground utilities are taken care of, the site will have new landscaping that will enhance the aesthetics of the neighborhood. The lot will remain parking for contractors throughout the entire building project, and will convert to employee parking in 2013.

A Time of Change

From my perspective, seeing the end of Laurel Grove Hospital comes with mixed emotions. Eden purchased Laurel Grove in 1986, and from that moment I was involved in expanding, remodeling and upgrading the entire facility. And so, many years later, I watched it come down. I feel a sense of pride in being involved in creating a good facility that provided care to so many people, and a sense of sadness in seeing it go. But I am also excited, knowing this is progress and we are making way for our new hospital.

One project ends, another begins. I spend a lot of time putting things up and making them work, and a lot of time taking them down and making them work as something else. That’s the nature of my work and I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

I will write more on the recycling in my next post. In the meantime, I welcome your comments and questions.

View the demolition images.

jeffmoore

By Jeff Moore, President, Greenwood & Moore

Greenwood & Moore is currently completing the Phase 4 construction drawings for the hospital. Phase 4 encompasses the area directly around the new hospital.  In total, there are seven individual construction phases associated with the site Civil Engineering services.  Each phase of construction requires a complete set of construction documents that are coordinated with the work performed in the previous phases of construction.  Had the new hospital been constructed on a “greenfield site” (raw land with no previous development) then only one set of drawings would be required.  The need for seven sets of plans illustrates the challenges and complexity of constructing the new hospital adjacent to the existing hospital.

The seven phases of constructions are as follows:

Phase 1 – Demolition of the existing Pinecone Apartments and Medical Office Buildings

This work was completed in the summer of 2009.  In general, this was a very straight forward scope of work.  Interestingly enough, one the more challenging aspects of this phase of work were relocating the existing doctors who occupied the medical office spaces that were to be demolished.  The amount of design and coordination needed to relocate the doctor’s was immense! Add to the mix, the individual personalities of the doctor’s, different lease terms, differing needs for new office space and a drop-dead demolition deadline, and you get more excitement that a civil engineer is typically used to!

Phase 2 – Construction of the new Helistop, Large Site Retaining Walls, Garage Vehicle Access Bridge and a Temporary pedestrian access bridge.

The work in Phase 2 is referred to as “Make Ready” work.  That is, this work needs to be completed before significant work on the hospital can begin.  The large site retaining walls, pedestrian bridge and helistop were completed in late 2009.  Work on the garage vehicle access bridge continues and is expected to be completed in a few weeks.  From a civil engineering standpoint, the design of the helistop was the most challenging aspect of this phase of construction. This was due to the extensive design regulations set forth by the FAA.  Oddly enough, the design of the ramp leading to the helistop was particularly challenging.  The height of the landing pad above the roadway, airspace clearance requirements and patient gurney maneuverability issues were all pieces of the ramp design puzzle.  When all was said and done the final ramp configuration solved the hospital’s technical requirements.

Phase 3 – New Temporary Ambulance Parking

This work was simple but critical.  In order to facilitate the construction of the new hospital, it is necessary to relocate the ambulance drop-off area for the existing hospital.  This work was completed in late 2009.

Phase 4 – Site Improvements around the new Hospital.

This is a very complex phase of the civil engineering design services.  This phase of work incorporates all of the detailed site construction around the new hospital.  Some of the aspects of the phase of work are

  • Soundwalls for adjacent residential areas
  • New 18’ high, curved, retaining walls for the outdoor eating area
  • Truck loading dock
  • Site utilities
  • Underground fuel storage tanks
  • Underground fire sprinkler storage tank
  • Mobile technology (i.e., MRI) trailer location
  • Ambulance parking

Extensive coordination with the architect and other design team members is critical to make sure that all of the pieces fit together properly.

Phase 5 – Demolition of Laurel Grove Hospital and New Parking Lot

The demolition of the existing Laurel Grove Hospital and the construction of new parking on the site are the major components of Phase 5.  Currently, Laurel Grove Hospital is physically connected to an existing medical office building to the north of the project.  In order to remove the hospital, it will be necessary to provide minor reconstruction of the adjacent office building.  The removal of Laurel Grove is expected to occur in early 2010.  Its removal is critical to the construction schedule, as the site will be used for temporary construction staging and parking for the next two years.

Phase 6 – Demolition of the Existing Hospital

The removal of the existing hospital – after the new hospital is complete and everything is transferred over — will present some unique challenges.  When the building is gone, there will be a very large hole in the ground that will need to be filled and a foundation that will likely remain intact.   The civil engineering plans need make sure that these structures will not adversely impact the new parking lot that will be constructed on the site of the old hospital.

Phase 7 – Construction of the Main Parking Lot

Once the existing hospital has been removed, construction of the main parking lot can begin.  Phase 7 and Phase 4 are the two most complex parts of the civil engineering package.  The most notable aspect of the Phase 7 civil design is the stormwater control system.  This system provides required treatment to rainwater run-off.  From the public’s point of view, the stormwater control system looks like regular landscaping.  In reality, it is a complex filtration system that helps to keep pollutants and debris out of the public creeks and storm drain system

So, there has been a lot going on in the civil engineering world.  The design process will continue throughout the first half of 2010 until all aspects of the design are complete.

I welcome your comments and questions.

George Bischalaney, President and CEO, Eden Medical Center

By George Bischalaney, President & CEO, Eden Medical Center

Health care reform is on the agenda, again. The stakes are high, but our President is determined to make some significant changes. As the discussion moves from general to specifics, special interests are staking out their positions. None of the stakeholders—hospitals included—wants to feel the impact or be at a disadvantage.

Amidst the demand for cost reduction and health care coverage for all, there is and must be continued investment in care. Physicians demand it. They expect to be able to practice with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities to produce outcomes that meet national, state and local quality standards. Patients demand it. They want to know that their local hospital has the right number of well-trained staff as well as the latest diagnostic and treatment equipment, and contemporary facilities.

With this backdrop of conflicting needs, Eden Medical Center is about to begin a three-year project that will result in the replacement of the Castro Valley hospital. The project cost is estimated to be $320 million. The current 55-year-old building is anything but contemporary. With few private rooms, small operating rooms and inadequate support space for clinical services, a new hospital is very much needed.

Eden Medical Center has served the community well, but it was not designed for patient comfort and needs, more for staff needs and functionality. While our project may seem ill timed given the uncertainty of hospital reimbursement, we are required to meet California legislated standards for seismic safety in hospitals. And it truly is needed.

We’ll celebrate our long sought goal with a ground-breaking ceremony on July 1st. Then we’ll spend the next three years continuing the investment in the new buildings and equipment, while observing and hoping that decision makers do not enact legislation that essentially penalizes us for the commitment we are making. When we celebrate the grand opening and our new beginning early in 2013, it should be with the same hope and dreams as those who celebrated the first ceremony in 1954.

Campus View from Main Entry

By Cassandra Clark, Project Communications Director

After what has seemed like a very long journey, we now have permits in hand, and contractors have already mobilized on the Eden Medical Center campus to get it ready for construction of the highly anticipated new hospital. We want to keep you informed about the project, and let you know what you can expect in the next week and throughout the month of July.

Fencing around the perimeter of the construction area is almost complete! The fencing goes along our property line on Stanton Avenue, through our campus, and along the adjacent apartment buildings. We are also installing a gate at one of our Stanton Avenue entrances to limit access to the area only to construction vehicles.

Tree stump removal on the future helipad site will begin later this week.  The new site is approximately 150 feet north of the present location, as close as possible to the Eden Medical Trauma Center. Two days have been allocated for this work. Grading of the new helipad site will begin as early as June 26th, and will take up to three weeks to complete.

Demolition of the vacant Pine Cone Apartments on Stanton Avenue will begin July 1st. The structure will be demolished in one day, and it will take about two full weeks to break down and remove the debris.

Hours of work will be from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 pm, Monday through Friday, but is subject to change as work moves into subsequent phases.  We will keep you posted on construction schedules.

The Alameda County Fire Department has requested use of the vacant Pine Cone Apartment building for training purposes on June 29 and 30, prior to demolition. Firefighters in training often use vacant buildings to practice search, rescue and simulated fire control.  You will see firefighters on site on these dates, using smoke generators (no real fire) and equipment. Their life-saving work is a benefit to the community and we are proud to support their efforts.

If you have any questions or concerns about the preparation phase of construction, please comment on our blog, and we will respond promptly.

Main Entrance

By Cassandra Clark, Project Communications Director

After much debate and public input, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to certify the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) and approve the zoning and land use entitlements for the new hospital to replace 54-year-old Eden Medical Center.

Passage of the EIR and land use entitlement approvals is a major milestone for the Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley project—and the communities that will be served by this new, state-of-the-art hospital and adjoining medical office building.

About 20 speakers addressed the Board of Supervisors about the new hospital as well as concerns about future plans for San Leandro Hospital. Eden President & CEO George Bischalaney expressed to the Board members the overwhelming support for the new hospital, even among those who encouraged rejection of the EIR to “save San Leandro Hospital.” Bischalaney and others urged Board members not to delay approvals in order to meet “a very tight project timeline” and advised the Board not to tie the new hospital project to the uncertainty around San Leandro Hospital’s future.

In the end, the Board of Supervisors maintained that its obligation was to make a decision on the land use entitlement proposal before them. However, Board members promised to continue to work with Sutter and the District to come up with an optimal plan for San Leandro Hospital, and to meet the health care needs of the communities.

We are grateful to the many people of Eden Medical Center, San Leandro Hospital and our communities for participating in this process. We had tremendous support at both Board of Supervisors meetings, through the petitions, and all the phone calls and letters of encouragement.

What Happens Now?

The Board’s approval clears the way for SMCCV to use the designated property to build the new hospital, which will be on the northwest side of the Eden Medical Center campus, adjacent to the existing hospital.

In the coming weeks, we will file the appropriate permits to begin work on the land, including the demolition of the vacant apartment building and other site improvements, and the foundation work for the actual construction of the new hospital. Oversight and approval for the further construction is handled by the
California Office of Statewide Health Planning & Development.

The immediate work around the campus will get the land ready for construction and help minimize delays so we can proceed with building the new hospital as soon as possible in order to meet the deadline for State-mandated earthquake safety requirements.

We look forward to moving ahead with the project. As always, your questions and comments are welcome on this blog and on our social networks!

We could really use your support! The Alameda County Board of Supervisors will meet this Tuesday, June 9th, at 1:00 p.m. to make the final decision whether or not to build the new hospital to replace Eden Medical Center and pass the FEIR (Final Environmental Impact Report). We all know the value of having a hospital in our own backyards.

The meeting starts at 1:00, but Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley is on the agenda at 2:00 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Administration Building, Board Chambers, 1221 Oak Street, 5th Floor, Room 512, in Oakland.  If you would like to read the Board’s agenda in advance, please click and download the PDF file here (see page 2).

We are also still taking signatures on the online petition, if you want to add your name and comments there. Additionally, your comments are always welcome here on this blog.

By Cassandra Clark, Project Communications Director

To follow up on the May 12, 2009 Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting, the decision to certify the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) has been delayed to June 9th to address concerns raised about San Leandro Hospital, which is leased and operated as part of Eden Medical Center, but owned by the Eden Township Healthcare District (the District).  For more information, please see our previous blog post.

In the days prior to the May 12th meeting, after many rounds of public commentary, and after the EIR and related land use entitlements were approved by the Castro Valley MAC (Municipal Advisory Council) and the Alameda County Planning Commission, several community members and labor representatives raised last minute concerns about parts of the EIR. Those opposed to the EIR certification claim that there was not an adequate assessment of the impact of any possible closure or change of services at San Leandro Hospital, despite the fact that the EIR consultant and County planning staff have stated that the EIR is complete and the issues around San Leandro Hospital, while not related to the project, have no impact on the project. Supervisor Nate Miley made a motion for the Board to meet again to make the decision on June 9, 2009, which would provide attorneys for Alameda County an opportunity to examine these claims in more detail.

Supervisors Miley and Haggerty voiced their concerns about speakers making false or misleading allegations as a political tactic, in order to delay the EIR approval process, thereby “holding the Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley project for ransom,” which he and the other Supervisors warned could endanger the future of both Eden and San Leandro Hospitals. While there has been no decision by Sutter Health or the District on the future of San Leandro Hospital, the issue remains a topic of community discussion.

Eden Medical Center President & CEO George Bischalaney and other Sutter and Eden project team members emphasized the urgency of not going beyond June 9th to approve the EIR, as the delay of even a month could significantly hold up construction and may cause Sutter Health to withdraw its support from both hospitals. Sutter Health has already promised the $320 million to pay for the completion of the new Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley.

At the conclusion of the May 12th meeting, the four Supervisors present, with Supervisor Keith Carson absent, voiced their support for the new hospital project and the need to rebuild Eden Medical Center. They also are concerned about the future of San Leandro Hospital, and that concerns over San Leandro should perhaps be discussed in another forum, unrelated to the land use entitlements for Eden.

As our project team discussed in previous articles and blog posts and at the hearing, any delays in approvals and construction have serious repercussions, in terms of meeting state deadlines to rebuild, in creating a safe environment for patients and staff, and in funding this major project. The new hospital must be rebuilt, or it will close as an acute care facility effective January 1, 2013. We now have before us a fully funded hospital project—without public funding or taxes—that will secure the future of Eden Medical Center, preserve jobs and bring nearly 1,000 construction jobs to the region at a time when the economy is depressed and construction is drying up.

As I stated before, the issues around San Leandro Hospital are complex and important.  The community has a right to know what is happening. But the information being discussed now is no different that it has been for the past several years: the hospital is struggling and must be reinvented to bring value to the community and ensure that it can sustain itself over time.  It is clear to me that the residents of San Leandro desire a full service community hospital, yet the majority of them will never use it. The community and local elected officials have known that this is a concern, and yet this last minute effort to stop the EIR based on what some claim to be “new information” is not justified. San Leandro Hospital, its employees, physicians and patients need to be part of the solution for the hospital, to be discussed in its own forum with regional providers who can bring truth and substance to the discussion.  It should not be used as a political maneuver to stop Sutter Health from rebuilding Eden.

Please speak up, let our Board of Supervisors know they must not delay any further.  These delays put both hospitals in jeopardy. I encourage you to stand up and let your voice be heard on this issue.  Don’t just wait for the next hearing, but instead pick up the phone or send a letter to the Board and let them know you support the new hospital project, and encourage them to certify the EIR so the project can move forward before it’s too late.

Call today!

Supervisor Nate Miley — 510-272-6694

Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker — 510-272-6693

Supervisor Gail Steele — 510-272-6692

Supervisor Keith Carson — 510-272-6695

Supervisor Scott Haggerty — 510-272-6691

By Cassandra Clark, Project Communications Director

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED!

We are only a week away from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors hearing in which the Board will consider the Final Environmental Impact Report, zoning changes, and Castro Valley general plan changes. We are asking for your support at this critical step.

Local groups and some residents of San Leandro are applying fierce political pressure on the Board members to deny approval. Their reason? The future of San Leandro Hospital is unknown, and therefore they are pressuring the Board of Supervisors to require Sutter Health to keep San Leandro Hospital open as a condition of approving the land use for the new hospital in Castro Valley.

What wrong with this?  First of all, the Board of Supervisors are not voting on the future of San Leandro Hospital—they are having a public hearing on the land use entitlements and certifying the EIR. To delay or deny approval based on pressure about San Leandro is wrong.

The future of San Leandro Hospital is not and should not be tied to the new hospital. Indeed, San Leandro Hospital is a critical issue that must be addressed—and it requires a regional solution, more careful planning, and a separate focus than this project.  It’s an important issue that cannot be overlooked, for the sake of the staff, physicians and patients. But the complex issues at one hospital should not be tied to the land use entitlements for the new hospital project.

Simply stated, by delaying plans for the new hospital, the Board will jeopardize the future of Eden AND San Leandro hospitals.

I am asking you to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting on May 12 and SPEAK UP in favor of our new hospital. Speakers are limited to 3 minutes, but a simple 30-second statement is powerful. The Board needs to know that residents of Castro Valley and surrounding communities want and need this new hospital, without delays.

Meeting details:

Tuesday, May 12
1:00 p.m.

Board of Supervisors Meeting Chambers
1221 Oak Street, Oakland

If you cannot attend the meeting, we need to you to contact the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and have you voice your opinion. It is so important that the Board hears from everyone, especially since the majority of people in our community support this project (an astounding 80% of community members are in favor according to recent polls!).

Call your Supervisors today!

Supervisor Nate Miley — 510-272-6694

Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker — 510-272-6693

Supervisor Gail Steele — 510-272-6692

Supervisor Keith Carson — 510-272-6695

Supervisor Scott Haggerty — 510-272-6691

Thank you for your continued support!

As always, we also appreciate your comments and questions on this blog, and we’ll respond as quickly as possible.

Main Entrance at Twilight

The new Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley, which will replace Eden Hospital.

By Digby Christian, Project Team Leader

We are proud to tell you that on April 7, 2009, the Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley (SMCCV) project team received the 2008 FIATECH CETI Award at the award gala held in Las Vegas.

FIATECH is an industry consortium within the building industry. Its primary mission is to get all the “players” involved in capital projects to adopt new ways of thinking and new technologies to deliver higher value for the funders and end-users of construction projects.

Here is why our team won the award…

As most of our readers know, California’s deadline for retrofitting or building earthquake-proof hospitals from scratch is 2013, less than four years from now. The hospital project in its current form was validated as viable in August 2007, and design work was authorized to start in October of that year, leaving us just over five years to have the building be ready and open for business. Typically, in California, it takes at least seven years for a project of this magnitude.

So the team had to throw out all historical concepts of how design is done and come together as a wide-ranging, multi-company team involving the owner, the designers and the builders, and transform the design and construction process to drive two years out of the schedule. The team is now on track to achieve just that and did it primarily by redesigning the design process in a rigorous and unrelenting fashion, so that it no longer bears any real resemblance to tradition!

If you are familiar with the classic design process, you’ll know that it’s typically abbreviated as “SD-DD-CD”: Schematic Design (broad concepts typically discussed and agreed to by the owner and the architect exclusively); Design Development (often a General Contractor might have some involvement in this); and Construction Drawings (some trades might be brought on board to inform how these are put together). Then, the work goes out to the building community and those companies develop what are known as Shop Drawings. These drawings show in detail how every little and large item in the building will be fabricated, i.e., the structural elements, including steel, metal, glass, concrete, etc.

On the SMCCV project, all of the people who typically are brought in at the end are already on board, and most of them have been on board since August 2007. By the time this project completes its approval process through the County and State we will already be at the Shop Drawing stage. The building is being designed for fabrication now, while the design approval process is underway.

While this concept has been discussed for the last few years within the industry, and parts of the above have been implemented on other projects, no project has implemented this concept as broadly and as deeply as the SMCCV project; certainly not on a project this large and this complex. It is one of the reasons our project won the FIATECH award!

The other primary reason we won the award is because of how thoroughly the building has been designed in three dimensions (as opposed to the typical two dimensional paper drawings we are used to seeing). There are many very attractive shots of 3D design that you can find on websites, and in trade magazines but you can’t tell if the designs are any good—all you know is they look “cool.” But on the SMCCV project, we bring the entire team together at least every two weeks to work through the coordination effort. It’s painstaking and difficult, but utterly critical to a successful outcome in a shorter timeframe.

What is not often understood outside the industry, and to some extent even within the industry, is that different design disciplines use different software, and they can’t see each other’s work in real time while they are designing. Each company has to either import a converted file of each other’s work or send both files to a third package, such as Autodesk Navisworks, to see both designs at the same time. So it’s all too easy to have a poorly coordinated, unbuildable, three dimensional design—no different in fact than having a poorly coordinated, unbuildable, two dimensional design.

In addition, we have focused the team on the larger goal of designing for fabrication rather than the industry convention of designing to produce the construction documentation, which is then coordinated by the construction team. The team’s goal to design for fabrication means we are swimming against the tide. We are allowing our companies to each use their own best-in-class software and then developing a process that allows a high level of coordination and constructability to ensure that what is being designed is actually what we will build.

The above might seem dry and technical; however, by a) having a multi-company team involving all the construction trades from day one; b) throwing out the baggage of a poor design process and starting from scratch to build a better one; and c) having a goal of designing for fabrication will allow us to build a new hospital on schedule, within budget, and without any last minute compromises on the finished product.

On the Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley project, we are breaking new ground ahead of any other project in the country in the way such projects are handled. That, in essence is the reason why the team that is building your hospital won the 2008 FIATECH CETI Award.

In addition to the Sutter Health project team, I want to personally thank The Devenney Group, DPR Construction, Capital Engineering, The Engineering Enterprise, TMAD Taylor & Gaines, GHAFARI Associates, J W McClenahan, Morrow Meadows, Superior Air Handling, MPS Project Management, Navigant Consulting, Greenwood & Moore Engineering, Herrick Steel, Otis Elevators, Strategic Project Solutions, Royal Glass, Clark Pacific, Candela, Sparling, and numerous other specialty trade vendors for making it possible to receive this award—and to meet our 2013 deadline!

For all you construction buffs, or for anyone who is interested, check out FIATECH at http://www.fiatech.org/.

I welcome your questions and comments!

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    We have launched a Social Media outreach program, using the Web to keep you informed about our progress in building the new Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley, a Sutter Health affiliate, which will eventually replace Eden Medical Center. We want to provide you with a forum to interact with us so we can address your questions and concerns.

    Our blog will serve as your Internet "headquarters," where you can find updated information, plus you'll find links to other popular online social networks (see below), where we have started groups and online communities for further discussion about the new medical center.

    We hope you'll subscribe by email or RSS feed. Please go to the "Subscribe by Email" box or the orange RSS icon above. The blog will be updated frequently.

    We look forward to hearing from you and starting a conversation! Please feel free to comment at the bottom of any of the posts. We will respond.

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