August 21, 2020
Renovated lobby at The Woman's Hospital of Texas in Houston. Photo courtesy of Jud Haggard Photography

DPR Construction is hard at work on a complex renovation project at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas. The scope of work consists of 52,000 sq.-ft. of interior renovation encompassing labor and delivery and antepartum patient rooms, operating rooms, the addition of new service elevators within the existing facility, demolition of an existing parking structure and construction of a 9-story 732,500 sq.-ft. precast parking garage. Since 1976, the hospital has helped bring 170,000 babies into the world and become one of Texas’s foremost care centers for women and newborns. Located just off The Old Spanish Trail and minutes away from The Texas Medical Center, a dense 2.1-square-mile medical district in south-central Houston, The Woman’s Hospital is one of 13 in HCA Houston Healthcare’s network that together treat more than 1 million patients each year.

Much of the project’s complexity stems from the fact that it is being carried out while the facility remains occupied and fully operational, as well as from the addition of the two elevators in the core of the building. Patrick Gorman, who serves as project manager, says “the addition of two staff elevators in the core of the hospital is by far the most complex portion of this project .”

The elevator shaft was built into the structure during initial construction, designed with knockout slabs in preparation for adding the elevators later. But over the years, several projects had been undertaken in the area which lead to some unforeseen obstacles that required solutions-based strategies. Upon demolition, the team encountered numerous existing unidentified conditions with conduit, piping and steam lines that had to be rerouted to clear the way for the new elevators.

Says Gorman, “On every floor, we’ve overcome major conflicts and challenges to prepare to demolish the slabs for the shaft. But the demolition is almost complete, and we’re gearing up to start the penthouse expansion to support the elevators.”

DPR’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing expertise was vital in the planning and relocating of these existing utilities. The team worked together to come up with a plan for the complex series of shutdowns that were necessary, but that would mitigate potential downtime. They utilized an existing fusible crane disconnect that was left in place from previous work, refeeding it with normal power and using it to temporarily feed each panel as it was shut down to relocate the conduits and feeders.

“The whole project has really allowed us to showcase our abilities as a true self-perform builder,” said Gorman. When the original subcontractor was unable to man the demolition portion of the project, DPR’s self-perform corps stepped up to complete the demolition, met the schedule perfectly and smoothed out the entire process.

DPR self-perform team members are also completing the concrete on the 2000-space parking garage, which includes an expansive site work utilities package for the garage and to support the adjacent medical office building. And since the project is at a major medical center, work must align with requirements for infection control and other measures inside the hospital. The work carried out by DPR’s craft team members, including Jose Rubio and Jose Zelaya, to meet these requirements has garnered raving reviews from the hospital and its staff. Says Gorman, “We truly could not complete a project of this magnitude without their help.”

Navigating the project’s unique challenges requires extensive coordination amongst the various trades on-site and the use of VDC site models that are color coded by scope and serve as visual aids for sequencing of the work. “This job is different from the traditional approach to a project schedule,” says Robert Parham, a project engineer on the team. “We have six phases. In the first phase, we’re in 12 areas of the building at one time. Each space is phased out, so it’s a lot of communication and coordination with the trades out in the field.”

The team uses Smartsheet for collaboration and work management, meticulously reviewing every activity with the responsible foremen. The goal is not only to notify each trade of schedule commitments, but also to obtain educated buy-in from each trade on-site, committing to the schedules agreed upon with the customer. Planning includes daily coordination with facility staff on the ground, to notify them of what spaces are scheduled for work and to coordinate the various access plans.

As a result of these efforts, the project is on track for its scheduled 2021 completion.