The work was completed on a highly accelerated, 12-month schedule and often directly in the middle of the most sensitive areas. (Photo Brian Mihealsick)
Daily walk-throughs helped ensure everyone working on the job knew what they had to do each day. (Photo Brian Mihealsick)
Despite challenges, all four phases of the medical center were finished as planned. (Photo Brian Mihealsick)
Constant, clear communication with hospital staff ensured no surprises, ever. (Photo Brian Mihealsick)

Planning, Communication and Can-Do Approach Gets it Done at North Austin Medical Center

Team Players

CUSTOMER: HCA | St. David’s North Austin Medical Center is a full-service hospital including the Women’s Center of Texas, a 24/7 emergency department, heart and vascular care, surgery and a kidney transplant center.

ARCHITECT: Earl Swensson Associates, Inc.

CHALLENGES: In addition to working in the highly sensitive, occupied patient areas, other challenges included:

  • 40+ days of rain delay. By resequencing the work, DPR was able to shave more than 40 days off the 12-month schedule.
  • Coordination challenges. 150 tradespeople worked inside the hospital at peak construction. Daily walk-throughs with foremen from each trade ensured everyone knew what they had to do each day.
  • Schedule challenges. For the antepartum expansion, patient rooms were outfitted with pre-manufactured headwalls, footwalls and finished bathrooms, delivered on site ready for placement—shaving six weeks from the schedule.
  • Prefab challenges. While the prefab and modular work saved time, it also brought a learning curve. DPR made sure to share lessons learned with the same owner on another project being built in West Houston.

Intense schedule milestones reached through planning, communication—without disruption to hospital patients

No surprises.

That was the DPR team motto on the St. David’s North Austin Medical Center expansion, one of the most complex, high-stakes projects many team members had ever taken on. Completed in multiple phases last fall, the $34 million project involved an intensive 95,000-sq.-ft. vertical expansion and renovation of some of the most critical care areas of a fully operational hospital in Austin, TX.

The project’s four phases ran concurrently. They included:

  • adding a 32,000-sq.-ft. antepartum space over existing radiology;
  • a 20,000-sq.-ft. vertical expansion of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU);
  • a 25,000-sq.-ft. surgery shell addition to the existing building connecting the women’s center tower to the operating rooms and existing hospital core; and
  • 20,000 sq. ft. of renovations to the pediatric emergency department and pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).

All of the work was completed on a highly accelerated, 12-month schedule and often directly in the middle of the most sensitive areas of patient care, including around newborns and critically ill babies.

MINIMIZING IMPACT

DPR knew from the outset it would require some extraordinary measures to minimize impact on existing operations. One step was a temporary six-inch sound barrier wall inside the NICU to muffle as much construction noise and impact as possible while work took place a few feet away from tiny infants receiving lifesaving care. Heavy protective plastic and clean suits were employed each time that sound wall had to be moved or modified to isolate the work areas.

“There was no handbook for this one,” commented DPR’s Angie Weyant. “Parents go in there, and the last thing they want to see is construction going on right next to their sick babies. Our goal was to make it look like nothing was happening while we were in there.”

DPR’s biggest imperative: constant, clear communication with hospital staff to make sure every impacted department knew exactly what was happening each step along the way. And no surprises, ever.

To accomplish that, the team had weekly coordination meetings with the affected department directors and the hospital chief operating officer (COO). Weyant would provide color-coded, easy-to-understand illustrations outlining upcoming work and the degree of impact that could be expected. She was in nearly constant contact with the hospital’s Director of Women’s Services, Yvette McDonald. “I think I talked to her more than my husband during this project,” Weyant said with a laugh.

EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS

From the hospital’s perspective, the DPR team lived its motto and exceeded the owner’s already high expectations on the project, which expanded a hospital that DPR built just a few years before.

“In a word, I would just say that DPR has been wonderful. They’re awesome,” said St. David’s North Austin Medical Center COO, Sheri Dube. “You know, you can get different contractors who will do a really good job for you. But it’s the level of service that’s provided that I think is the differentiator for DPR.”
Dube cited the communication and weekly meetings as an example of that service. “Everything was very organized, extremely well presented in terms of what areas were going to be affected, how long it was going to take, the impact of doing that, and what can we do to accommodate you? Everything was for the greater good, all wanting a win-win. They just have a very can-do, get-it-done mentality.”

Despite the many challenges, DPR finished all the phases as planned and to the accolades of a very happy owner. At completion, Dube said, “It was quite phenomenal to pull that off in that amount of time. This is just not done every day. It was quite incredible.”

Learn more in the extended case study.