Project Profile: Mercy Medical Center
Scope of work: $12.5 million, fast-track addition of a 32-bed inpatient floor for COVID-19 patients
BC&E Member companies involved: The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, Windsor Electric Company, Inc., M. Nelson Barnes & Sons, Inc. and Centerline Construction Company
On the 17th floor of Mercy Medical’s Mary Catherine Bunting Center, a construction crew is trying to outpace a pandemic.
Led by The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, the team is pushing to convert a 30,000-square-foot shell space into a 32-bed inpatient facility, outfitted with enhanced HVAC systems and physiological monitoring capabilities that provide a safer environment for COVID-19 patients and staff.
“In normal times, this project would take eight months to a year to complete,” said Lou Westermeyer, Project Manager at Windsor Electric Company, Inc. “We are working on a 75-day schedule.”
Approved through a state emergency certificate of need in mid-March, the project progressed from a phone call to a kickoff meeting within 72 hours, Westermeyer said. The project team adopted multiple processes to expedite construction, including running two shifts every weekday plus weekend shifts, holding two to three team meetings by telephone daily, prefabbing components offsite, mocking up two patient rooms to develop a streamlined process for assembly, and creating a fast-track process to resolve design, construction and materials issues.
“The design and construction process is going on simultaneously as a team effort,” said Judith Weiland, Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning and Facilities at Mercy Health Services. That has proven helpful in sourcing “materials and interior finishes in one of the most challenging times of procuring supplies.”
Some specialty hospital items, such as light fixtures, simply aren’t available quickly, Westermeyer said. However, when he has presented Whiting-Turner and Mercy Medical with alternatives, he has received approvals within an hour.
“The most effective thing the project team has done is empowering single points of contact for the major players from a design, owner and construction side as well as empowering [those single points]…to make immediate decisions,” Weiland said. “Early involvement and gaining the support of Baltimore City Planning and Inspections and the Baltimore City Fire Department has also been a tremendous asset in expediting this construction project.”
At the same time, Whiting-Turner and Mercy Medical have added features to the project to safeguard construction workers and hospital staff and patients from COVID-19.
“Whiting-Turner built bathrooms and a lunchroom up on the floor for us and the hospital cafeteria brings us sandwiches so once the guys go onto the floor, they don’t leave the floor,” Westermeyer said.
Mercy physicians and infection control team members also worked with Whiting-Turner to implement social distancing and hygiene protocols onsite and conduct daily health screenings on construction workers, Weiland said.
“The schedule on this important project has created a real challenge for Mercy, the subcontractors and the jobsite workers as led by the Whiting-Turner team,” said Mark Green, President of Centerline Construction. “This level of engagement and cooperation is inspirational for the guys working on the job; we owe all our success to those workers.” Despite the pace and challenges of the project, “it’s a different feel with this job,” Westermeyer said. “Guys are very upbeat. Everybody is coming together for a common goal because they know how important this project is for the hospital and for the city.”