Consistently ranked one of the nation’s top healthcare builders, DPR’s proven industry experts understand the unique needs and applications of the intricate systems that are the lifeline of healthcare facilities.



November 27, 2018

Elevating Patient Care at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center

Employees of Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center left their mark on a multi-year master expansion project currently underway at the Athens, Georgia healthcare facility earlier this month. Piedmont Athens Regional staff members signed two steel beams days before they were hoisted into place signifying the first phase of the expansion—a fourth-floor addition of the Prince Tower Two—one of several towers on Piedmont Athens Regional’s campus.

Piedmont Athens Regional staff members signed two steel beams days before they were hoisted into place.
Piedmont Athens Regional staff members signed two steel beams days before they were hoisted into place signifying the first phase of the expansion—a fourth-floor addition of the Prince Tower Two. Photo courtesy of Andi King Wieczynski

In 2016, Atlanta-based Piedmont Healthcare acquired the 359-bed acute care hospital and has announced a phased master plan to expand services and amenities for the growing local community and the 17-county regional area surrounding Athens. Piedmont Athens Regional is home of Piedmont Healthcare’s east hub of services, which includes three other hospitals. Scheduled for completion in 2022, the master plan project includes:

  • 230,000 sq. ft. of new construction and 150,000 sq. ft of renovated space
  • Demolition of a four-story tower and replacement with a six-story, 64-bed patient tower
  • Multiple interior renovations to accommodate current capacity for the Prince Tower One, which is set to be demolished
  • Addition of a fourth floor to the three-story Prince Tower Two

With a main objective of improving delivery of patient care and operational efficiency, the project will also improve both vehicular and pedestrian circulation around the campus and simplify patient arrival, wayfinding and access.

Piedmont Athens Rendering
Scheduled for completion in 2022, the phased master plan project will expand services and amenities for the growing local community and the 17-county regional area surrounding Athens. Photo courtesy of SmithGroup

Before the beams were elevated atop the existing Prince Tower Two, construction partners and Piedmont Athens Regional employees, including Executive Director of Operations, Diane Todd, and Piedmont Athens Regional President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Charles Peck, came together to celebrate the monumental occasion. “Our mission, ‘to improve the lives and health of those we touch remains the same,” said Dr. Peck. “The opportunity to reach and care for more members of the Athens community is why today is such a significant first step for our future.”

The Athens Piedmont beam setting ceremony
“Our mission, ‘to improve the lives and health of those we touch remains the same,” said Dr. Peck. “The opportunity to reach and care for more members of the Athens community is why today is such a significant first step for our future.” Photo courtesy of Andi King Wieczynski

This is the fifth project DPR has executed for Piedmont Healthcare in the Atlanta area and the organization's first project for Piedmont Athens Regional. DPR is no stranger to the Athens community, however, as the team recently completed enhancements to the University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium—the 10th largest football facility in the country. Integral to the success of Piedmont Athens Regional’s expansion include DPR’s project partners: program consultant, BDR, and architect of record, SmithGroupJJR and Trinity Health Group Architects.

June 15, 2018

Celebrating DPR Dads: Building Futures, Building Families

Joel Bass
When DPR’s Joel Bass and his wife Wei-Bing Chen arrived at UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay because Chen was in labor, the staff told them that it might be helpful to go for a walk around campus. It was a familiar walk for Joel Bass, who was a superintendent on the award-winning 878,000-sq.ft. ground-up hospital complex renowned for its integrated project delivery (IPD) approach and state-of-the-art patient care. After walking the very same halls where he did countless job walks during the years he worked on the hospital, the parents-to-be sat on a bench and reflected on what was to come.

On March 12, 2015, the world welcomed Tyler Bass, the first DPR baby to be born at UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay. It was serendipitous, as the hospital had only moved deliveries into the new hospital a few days prior.

Joel and Tyler Bass
Tyler Bass was the first DPR baby to be born at UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

“It brought together so many things. At DPR, we try to be integral and indispensable to our communities, and having your baby in the building you built is a way to truly become a part of the building, and use it in the way it was intended,” said Joel Bass. “It’s important to see value and meaning in the work that you do, and know that you’re contributing to something larger than yourself. It was a special experience to share what we built with my family.”

Today, Tyler Bass is three years old–old enough to recognize UCSF’s helipad from nearby Highway 280 as “the place where dad works.” With his own hard hat, vest and boots, the toddler gravitates toward anything related to construction. He’s fascinated by cars, trucks and equipment, and is always lobbying his dad to take him to the jobsite.

Wei-Bing Chen, Tyler Bass and Joel Bass visit UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, where Tyler Bass was born. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Joel Bass now works a few blocks away from the hospital where Tyler Bass was born, as he and the DPR team build UCSF’s new 270,000-sq.-ft. Joan and Sanford I. Weill Neurosciences Building, which will bring together lab research programs and clinical care in what will become one of the largest neuroscience complexes in the world.

On his last visit, Tyler Bass proudly told his dad that he wants to work with him some day, a dream that makes Joel Bass smile–and a dream that might come true.

Joel and Tyler Bass
Tyler Bass is fascinated by construction, and dreams of working with his dad one day. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Dan Crutchfield
When DPR’s Dan Crutchfield met his wife Lauren Crutchfield at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland, he had no idea what big moments life would have in store for him at the hospital a mile away.

As a superintendent at DPR, Dan Crutchfield has worked on five straight projects for Carroll Hospital Center, ranging from outpatient suites to the expansion of the labor and delivery suites, often coordinating construction work within live hospital units. On Nov. 25, 2017, after enduring a long labor and delivery process, Lauren Crutchfield gave birth to Josephine (Josie) Crutchfield in one of the very same suites built by her father.

Dan and Josie Crutchfield
On Nov. 25, 2017, after enduring a long labor and delivery process, Lauren Crutchfield gave birth to Josephine (Josie) Crutchfield in one of the very same suites built by her father. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Dan Crutchfield still works within the same building, as the DPR team builds an expansion of the hospital’s couplet care program, which enables mothers and newborns to stay together for their entire hospital stay. Nurses, doctors and hospital staff run into him almost every day and check in for updates about his wife and daughter.

“Now that I am renovating and expanding the facility where Josie was born, I gained an appreciation for what the doctors, nurses and medical staff do every day,” said Dan Crutchfield. “I’m able to see it from two different perspectives, both professional and personal.”

Crutchfield family
Dan Crutchfield, Josie Crutchfield and Lauren Crutchfield visit Carroll Hospital, where Josie was born. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

A native of Carroll County, Maryland, Dan Crutchfield grew up his whole life in the community that Carroll Hospital Center serves and finds great meaning in building a facility that will positively impact so many people that he knows–including his own family. Josie Crutchfield is now six months old, and when she’s old enough, Dan Crutchfield plans to explain to her how she was born in the hospital that he built.

“I wasn’t just a contractor at a hospital. All the work I put into the expansion and renovations, I was making it better for her, and for families like ours. It was special, and a project that I will always remember.”

Dan and Josie Crutchfield
Josie Crutchfield is now six months old, and when she’s old enough, Dan Crutchfield plans to explain to her how she was born in the hospital that he built. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

June 14, 2018

The Role of a Compassionate Team Culture while Building Spaces for Healing

On two simultaneous large-scale hospital expansion projects in the hearts of Phoenix and Tucson communities, the teams at Banner—University Medical Center (UMC) Phoenix and Banner—UMC Tucson maintain an environment that encourages connection, empathy and an investment in the well-being of others.

During a long project, it can be easy to lose sight of the importance of seemingly small tasks day-in and day-out. With shared team values of integrity, community and purpose, these two hospital expansions increase access to community-based, patient-centric healthcare within a culture of compassion. Every room, every wall, and every brush of paint could make the biggest difference on a patient’s day.

Operating room at BUMCP
Project teams at Banner—UMC Phoenix (pictured above) and Banner–UMC Tucson share core values of integrity, community and purpose, which results in a culture of compassion. Photo courtesy of Gregg Mastorakos.

“In our Monday morning safety meetings and daily huddles, we actively discuss the importance of what we are doing and emphasize that we are guests on campus,” said DPR’s Brian Thomason. “We established a culture that publicly praises kindness and doing the right thing.”

On healthcare projects, a compassionate environment inspires, motivates and connects the team to the spaces they are building. As discussed in "Manage Your Emotional Culture" in the Harvard Business Review, smaller acts of kindness and support create a caring culture, which improves teamwork and performance while decreasing burnout.

Exterior of BUMCT
Teams at Banner–UMC Phoenix and Banner–UMC Tucson (pictured above) are intentional about sharing moments of compassion. Photo courtesy of Taylor Granat

This specific environment is crucial to patient-centered design and construction. Health Environments Research & Design Journal reports that “by becoming more conscious of empathy, those who create healthcare environments can better connect holistically to the user to take an experiential approach to design.”

Here are the keys to creating a culture of compassion:

Connect the Team to the Purpose
How people feel about the project they are completing directly affects their performance. During a four-year hospital project, it’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind, and integrated teams at Banner—UMC Phoenix and Banner—UMC Tucson discovered unique opportunities to connect and empathize with patients in adjacent buildings.

At Banner—UMC Tucson, children recovering at the adjacent Banner Children’s at Diamond Children’s Medical Center have a direct view of the jobsite under construction. The Sundt | DPR team moved cardboard cut-outs of Pokémon™ characters including Pikachu, Squirtle and Charmander to a new spot on the steel frame structure every day. This energized and connected the team to the project, which includes the construction of a bridge to connect the new nine-story hospital through Banner Children’s at Diamond Children’s Medical Center. Floors five through nine will provide 204 in-patient private bed units, and floors one through four will include bridge connections to the existing hospital.


Patients at the Phoenix project also had a unique view of progress of the new 13-story patient tower expansion, which will house 256 patient beds. The team noticed a sign from a patient window on the eighth floor of the existing patient tower, requesting the “YMCA” dance for her birthday. Working collaboratively on their moves, the team happily delivered the dance.

“With our team’s culture, there was a real sense of duty. You could see it through the extra hours, the extra work, and the drive to live up to our commitments,” said Thomason.

The Community is Considered Part of the Team
Normally, construction aims to stay out of sight, minimizing any disruption to the surrounding community. However, the community welcomed the positivity, investment and teaching opportunities provided by the teams.

At Banner—UMC Phoenix, the team encouraged kids from nearby Emerson Elementary to paint the plywood safety wall surrounding the jobsite. The resulting mural provided a colorful addition to the project, and it was also an opportunity to teach students about safety and construction. After the wall was no longer needed onsite, DPR delivered and installed the mural at Emerson Elementary for the students to remember their contribution to Banner—UMC Phoenix.

Emerson Elementary
At Banner—UMC Phoenix, the team encouraged kids from nearby Emerson Elementary to paint the plywood safety wall surrounding the jobsite. Photo courtesy of Brian Thomason

“The team, both Banner employees and DPR, have all stated how they are so proud to be a part of such a caring group of people inside and outside of the office,” said Thomason.

By engaging and educating the community, hospital end users feel like a part of the team and share that culture of compassion.

Thank you note
The team received thank you notes from students at Emerson Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Brian Thomason

The Team Looks for Opportunities to Create Joy
When the team establishes a culture of compassion, the opportunities to engage and give back seem to be everywhere.

The iron workers at Banner—UMC Phoenix spontaneously communicated their best wishes by painting “GET WELL FROM THE IRON WORKERS” in direct view of patient rooms in the current tower.

“This was completely unscripted and was a huge hit. We received a bunch of phone calls from the hospital staff saying how awesome it was for the construction workers to take a moment and place this message to the patients,” said Thomason.

The community, staff, patients and project teams may not remember every single day they spent building this project, but they will look back and remember how they felt.

May 2, 2018

Construction Underway at Inova Loudoun Hospital’s Patient Tower

Construction is underway at Inova Loudoun Hospital’s (ILH) new patient tower in Leesburg, Virginia. Scheduled for completion in 2020, the tower is one phase of ILH’s $300 million master plan for expansion of facilities and services.

The 7-story 385,000-sq.-ft. patient tower was designed by HDR in collaboration with RSG Architects to create a patient-focused experience that elevates the human spirit. The tower will include:

  • Private, patient-centered rooms
  • New obstetrics unit and expanded Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
  • Expanded Progressive Care Unit (PCU) and Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
  • Expanded Inova Heart and Vascular Institute Schaufeld Family Heart Center
  • More tertiary services, including Level III Trauma at the Inova Virts Miller Family Emergency and Trauma Center and throughout the hospital
  • Outpatient services, diagnostic imaging, a café and hospital support
  • Shell space for future expansion
Groundbreaking photo
The team broke ground on Inova Loudoun Hospital’s new patient tower in September 2017. Photo courtesy of Kimberly Shumaker
Aerial photo
Construction on the 7-story, 385,000-sq.ft. patient tower is underway. Photo courtesy of Louay Ghaziri
Rendering
Scheduled for completion in 2020, the patient tower is a part of Inova Loudoun Hospital’s $300 million master plan for expansion of facilities and services. Photo courtesy of HDR

March 28, 2018

VCU Health C.A.R.E. Building Opens to Provide Accessible Healthcare

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital’s new C.A.R.E. Building opened in February 2018, creating a comprehensive medical center housing clinics, administration, rehabilitation and education services for the residents of southern Virginia and northern North Carolina.

Adjacent to the Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill, Virginia, the $14.4 million, 67,000-sq.-ft. C.A.R.E. Building represents VCU’s commitment to make comprehensive healthcare as accessible as possible for its patients. It is home to physician practices and hospital services including cardiology, pulmonology, family care and orthopedics. The new facility will also house a family dental clinic that is set to open later this year.

VCU Health C.A.R.E. building exterior.
Photo courtesy of Judy Davis
Photo courtesy of Judy Davis
Photo courtesy of Judy Davis
Photo courtesy of Judy Davis

February 12, 2018

Celebrating the Start of Foundation Work for UCSF’s Weill Neurosciences Building

DPR recently celebrated full mobilization and the start of foundation work for the new 270,000-sq.-ft. Joan and Sanford I. Weill Neurosciences Building for the University of California, San Francisco.

To honor the milestone, which occurred by drilling the first production auger cast pile, the team celebrated with all project partners in the Big Room, a collaborative space that physically brings together designers, builders, trade partners and facility operators. 

When complete, the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Neurosciences Building will make the neuroscience complex at UCSF Mission Bay one of the largest in the world. Photo courtesy of Barry Fleisher

“After a year and four months in preconstruction, we are extremely excited to celebrate the start of construction. We wouldn’t be here today without all our tremendous design and trade partners. Everyone in this room should be very proud to have played a part in this project so far, and I can’t wait to see the project built,” said DPR’s Tim Kueht, during a cake toast to kick off the celebration.

Prior to the ceremony, the entire Big Room team attended a presentation given by UCSF Medical Center’s nurses, doctors and researchers. These monthly presentations inspire and help the project team better understand the greater impact the facility will have on advancing the full spectrum of brain health through research, education and patient care.

The 12 companies co-located in the Big Room celebrated the start of foundation work. Photo courtesy of Barry Fleisher

October 12, 2017

First OSHPD-Approved Light-Gauge, Steel-Frame Structure Leverages Digital Fabrication for Rapid Growth

In an industry where it is status quo for skilled nursing to be part of continuing care retirement communities, a new kind of skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility is “growing” in Chino, California—Trellis. The first project of a collaborative statewide development program, the 59-bed, 40,000-sq.-ft. Trellis facility in Chino is also the first light-gauge, cold-form steel-frame structure to ever be approved by the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD), serving as a template to streamline lengthy aspects of the state agency’s approval process.

“Granite Development approached DPR to be a part of a collaborative team and provide strategic counsel through the entire life cycle of its vision for the Trellis skilled nursing facilities that are planned throughout the state,” said Brian Gracz, who leads DPR’s San Diego business unit. “We are helping them in the earliest stages of development with site assessment and rapid budget feedback for property comparisons, as they focus on creating a new kind of skilled nursing and rehabilitation experience in California.”

The 59-bed, 40,000-sq.-ft. Trellis facility in Chino is the first light-gauge, cold-form steel-frame structure to ever be approved by the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD). Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

The team, which includes Granite, DPR, Darden Architects, Kitchell and others, wanted to avoid the inherent issues of wood structures (e.g., pest control, water intrusion, fire protection), and improve speed of construction, reliability, and scalability of the program. They incorporated a load-bearing digitally fabricated light-gauge steel framed structure through Digital Building Components, which uses digital fabrication to transform computer models directly into precise-to-spec building assemblies.

Benefits of Light-Gauge Steel Framing and Digital Fabrication

  • Efficiency and Scalability: Off-site digital fabrication enables key components of the light-gauge framing to be produced together in a safe and controlled environment, reducing costs while enhancing safety and construction efficiency. Compared to a traditional wood-frame structure, the team shaved about four weeks off the schedule, and about $100,000 in general conditions cost on the first Trellis project. When multiplied by several facilities across the state, the savings grow exponentially, allowing Trellis to move into the nursing facilities sooner and begin positively impacting the lives of its patients. 
The team incorporated a load-bearing digitally fabricated light-gauge steel framed structure through Digital Building Components. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo
  • Seismic safety: Lighter than concrete, or hot-rolled structural steel buildings of the same height, cold-form, light-gauge panelized structures have proven to be strong and flexible enough to move with seismic activity instead of against it. Last summer, DPR helped assemble the tallest cold-formed, steel-frame structure ever to be tested on a shake table. The six-story building withstood a simulation of 150 percent of 1994’s 6.7-magnitude Northridge, California earthquake, shaking and rocking, but remaining structurally intact and safe. The structure performed so well, the team ended up dismantling it themselves, since it never failed through testing.

Challenges and Design Strategy

  • OSHPD approvals:  Due to the prevalence of wood-frame construction for these types of facilities, the Trellis facility was a first for OSHPD. The regulatory agency’s preference is that structures be built on-site for easy inspector access. To help with the process, the team worked closely with OSHPD to coordinate having an inspector on-site to check and sign off on the first 100 digitally fabricated panels. After that, only 30 percent of the panels needed to be inspected on-site and the first project is expected to be completed in early 2018. 
Off-site digital fabrication enables key components of the light-gauge framing to be produced together in a safe and controlled environment, reducing costs while enhancing safety and construction efficiency. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo
  • Strategic structural design: California has different seismic zones that affect structural design. To account for that, the team is constructing the Chino facility to meet the seismic requirements of one zone higher than necessary so the exact same structure can be replicated in different locations. Because the designs of the facilities are the same, OSHPD approval time is being drastically improved. In addition, different regions have varying pollution requirements. Designs of the facility were created with and without a diesel particulate filter, so both options could be approved by OSHPD simultaneously.

What’s next?

  • Since starting the Chino project, the team has gotten two projects approved through OSHPD, and is now working on the third.  By the end of 2017, the team looks forward to having three facilities across the state approved–with more to come. 
The team has gotten two projects approved through OSHPD, and is now working on the third. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

May 9, 2017

Building Stories, Building Hope at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford

Barry Fleisher knows a thing or two about follow-up. In his 15-year career as a neonatologist specializing in newborn intensive care at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, he helped develop a high-risk infant follow-up program. The program recognized that the end of each baby’s hospital stay was the beginning of the rest of his or her life, and made sure that infants and children grew and developed healthily after they left the hospital.

After retiring in 2003, Fleisher focused on another passion, photography. Attracted to the idea of capturing beauty in hidden places and telling stories through a series of work, he wound up in places where he genuinely enjoyed being, whether it was a coastal fishing village on the Peninsula or the bustling streets of San Francisco.

It was serendipity when he realized his former home, the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, was expanding. More than doubling the size of the current facility with an added 521,000 sq. ft., the expanded facility allows the hospital to meet increased demand for pediatric and obstetric care.ation grows. Returning to document the work at the institution he cares for so deeply, Fleisher began to photograph construction progress once a week at the project starting in March 2014. 

Fleisher’s photo of a daylong demobilization of a tower crane was one of the winners of ENR’s 2016 “Year in Construction” photo contest. Photo courtesy of Barry Fleisher

Trained by DPR in jobsite safety and always accompanied by a spotter, Fleisher has captured the physical intensity, the humanity as well as the details of building. His photo of the daylong demobilization of a tower crane was one of the winners of ENR’s 2016 “Year in Construction” photo contest.

With a father, brother and uncle who were in the construction business, Fleisher helped with construction and land surveying jobs during summers in high school and college. Construction is in his blood, and he remains fascinated by the level of complexity and detail that goes into making structures that serve a purpose, that support life. From his perspective of patient care, along with his past medical research on the behavior and development of pre-term infants, Fleisher is especially attentive to the importance of environment in healing.

“The Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford team put an incredible amount of thought and detail into making sure the space puts family first and whenever possible, brings nature into the healing process. Although the workers I met onsite won’t be involved in patient care, their role in creating a space that will help sick kids feel better is extraordinarily important to them,” Fleisher said. “It adds to the spirit that was literally built into the hospital, brick by brick, by their effort and dedication.” 

Fleisher captured this image, showing the size and scale of the lobby, including a main staircase in the foreground and steel framing in the ceiling. Photo courtesy of Barry Fleisher

In his observations of building–sometimes for hours at a time–Fleisher gained a newfound appreciation for “the beauty and intricate nature” of construction. With multiple trades working in the same area, all the pieces operate in tandem, like a finely tuned machine, to prevent injury, improve efficiency and successfully deliver a project.

In his photography, Fleisher has always believed in building a series of work that tells a story until it’s finished. When the hospital opened this year, Fleisher admitted it feels bittersweet to leave the jobsite and the friends he has made there. It is rare for a construction site to be professionally captured in such chronologic detail as Fleisher has, by faithfully arriving once a week, every week, for the past three years–with the same dedication and drive he used to create the high-risk infant follow-up program at the very same hospital many years ago.

Fleisher doesn’t think he’ll photograph another construction project, or hospital project after Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. 

Fleisher has faithfully documented the progress at the hospital once a week, every week for the past three years. Photo courtesy of Albert Lee

“This project has been a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. The layers of personal meaning that this hospital has for me, where my life and career were for many years, could never be repeated anywhere else,” he said. “I hope that I’ve contributed to documenting the history of the great things that have, and will, be built here.”

Unlike his other photo series that tell a story until it’s finished, Fleisher’s photos of the hospital actually do the opposite. His photos tell the story of the new Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford rising from the ground up, and even though the building is finished, its story is not.

It’s just beginning. 

March 16, 2017

Celebrating Women Who Build: Gretchen Kinsella


We are proud to kick off our Celebrating Women Who Build blog series with the story of Gretchen Kinsella. Gretchen is DPR’s youngest project executive in the Phoenix region, managing the largest project that we have ever built in the area—the $318-million renovation of Banner University Medical Center Phoenix (BUMCP).

Starting at DPR in 2002 as an intern, Gretchen found herself assigned to a project that didn’t offer the challenges she was looking for in her internship. She was honest and candid with her intern mentor; she wanted more challenges, responsibilities, problems to solve. She wanted to build great things.

Gretchen was moved to another project. “If you want to be heard, you need to continue to speak up and be confident in your own capabilities, whether you’re a 25-year veteran or an intern in your first week on the job,” she said.

Gretchen’s story continues to be one pushing limits. Her first full-time project at DPR was Banner Good Samaritan Hospital (now BUMCP, the project she is building today). She was given a lot of responsibility, because she asked for it. She continued to raise her hand for challenging projects as she progressed to becoming a project engineer, project manager and project executive.

And 15 years later, she chose an OB/GYN that delivers at BUMCP because she felt there was no better place for her personally to bring her daughter into this world. She was coming full circle, with the child she gave birth to at the site of the project she helped create (in one of the very same rooms she built back in 2004).

Read Gretchen’s full story, “How to Ask for What You Want and Find Your Voice in a Male-Dominated Industry,” on ENR.

February 22, 2017

VCU Health Team Proves Efficiency of Prefab

Ninety minutes outside of Raleigh, NC and Richmond, VA, the 70-bed Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) in South Hill, VA had a challenge. Because of the large construction boom in North Carolina and southern Virginia, the number of qualified med-gas installers in the area have more than enough work to keep them busy in their respective cities.

After the downturn of 2008, many experienced construction tradesmen left the field—for good. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, national skilled construction employment is down 19 percent from its 2007 peak, with the decline particularly stark in areas strongly affected by the housing bust. Now with construction roaring, many new, inexperienced workers have entered the job market, and–as with any new employees in any industry–need time to train and develop, increasing the importance for contractors to have self-perform work and prefab expertise.

The DPR team working on the design-build, 170,000-sq.-ft. replacement hospital found a creative solution for its dearth of labor, while still using a local subcontractor, as well as a way to improve overall efficiency: using prefab strategies for patient headwalls, med-gas zone valves and central utility plant skids and piping.


The DPR team used prefab strategies for patient headwalls, med-gas zone valves and central utility plant skids and piping, including this prefab chilled water piping. (Photo courtesy: Rob Johnson)

Every patient bed in the hospital required framing, med-gas, electrical rough-in and wood blocking at the head of the bed to accommodate the patient needs and provider care. With 70 identical beds, the team designed and constructed the headwalls off-site about 50 miles away, with pre-manufactured piping, electrical and wood blocking in a panelized wall system, which was then transported to site and installed in the patient rooms. The team then built the rest of the walls around the headwalls, and connected the overhead piping to the in-wall piping. What makes the headwalls notable is that many were back-to-back so one prefab wall accommodated two patient rooms.

Other prefabrication efforts on the project included skids and piping for the boiler and chiller plant that were shop-fabricated and shipped fully assembled to site. What would normally take months to complete, took only days in the field. 

The DPR team carefully kept track of hours saved by the prefabrication efforts, turning VCU CMH into a proving ground for the efficiency of prefabrication, with the data to back it up.


Prefabrication efforts on the project included skids and piping for the boiler and chiller plant that were shop-fabricated and shipped fully assembled to site. (Photo courtesy: Rob Johnson)

When compared to traditional in-field methods and production rates:

  • Prefabricated headwalls increased efficiency in med-gas piping production by 70 percent and in-wall electrical increased rough-in productivity by 20 percent.
  • The prefabricated boiler and chiller skids saved 86 percent of on-site hours.
  • Significant portions of mechanical and plumbing throughout the building were prefabricated in-shop, saving over 10,000 man-hours on-site.

“We find it rare to have prefabrication measured in such an empirical way as we have done at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital. We believe in this, and with the support of our trade partners, we are proving the efficiency of prefabrication,” said DPR’s Rob Johnson. “We are excited to explore and study additional prefabrication strategies on future DPR projects.”


Back-to-back headwalls enabled one prefab wall to accomodate two patient rooms. (Photo courtesy: Rob Johnson)

The prefabricated headwall strategy not only improved production rates and overcame a labor shortage issue, it benefited the project on the second-floor patient wing where in-wall rough-ins became the critical path at a critical point in the project. Having that work already complete mitigated a potential delay to the overall project schedule, allowing DPR to recognize another tangible benefit to prefabrication. 

The DPR team will continue to push the envelope and prove the efficiency of other prefab strategies on future projects in big ways—always adapting, solving problems and moving ever forward.