Danis Building Construction Company – Dayton Children’s Hospital

With Danis Building Construction Company celebrating 100 years in 2016, it’s clear the company is doing something right. Project Director Jim Albertson says a company doesn’t get to a milestone like that without doing a great job from a safety, quality, scheduling and budgetary standpoint. “We’re small enough to keep things personal, but big enough to have the capacity to build $140 to $200 million projects. Plus, we work really hard at building and maintaining relationships with our owners and our subcontractors, as well,” he says.

Danis offers full-service construction management and general contracting services. Along with handling the actual building of projects, the company also continues to develop new services based on the needs of its clients, many of whom are in the healthcare industry. The latest healthcare project that Albertson has undertaken is a 260,000-square-foot, eight-story patient tower for Dayton Children’s Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. The tower is being constructed in the middle of the courtyard of the existing hospitals, whose activities must remain uninterrupted.

The project broke ground in August 2014, and as of late 2015 the team had reached the second floor of the tower, moving at a rate of one floor up per month. When the state-of-the-art tower is completed in May 2017, four patient care floors will be developed to service general pediatrics, pediatric intensive care, newborn intensive care and hematology and oncology. 

Additionally, the main entrance will open to a bright lobby with a café, full-service cafeteria and retail pharmacy for patients and visitors. Along with the construction, Danis helped Dayton Children’s hospital complete a new data center in early 2015, and it will help build out a new central utility plant within the new tower. 

Dayton Children’s Hospital records about 285,000 patient visits each year and it wanted to revamp its campus to better service the needs of patients, families and care providers and to provide a more kid and family friendly environment. The hospital also wanted to better accommodate emerging medical technologies and best-practice models. 

Early Adopters

With 41 years of construction experience, Albertson has seen a lot of things change, both in the industry and within Danis. Most dramatic has been the adoption of new technologies to help onsite workers facilitate a more efficient, accurate construction process. This has allowed them to go nearly paperless in the field; take real-time photos on-site with iPads to submit RFIs and document conditions and changes; and utilize Autodesk BIM 360 Field so every team member on the project has easy, real-time access to all documentation. The company also utilizes a wireless “data vault” in the field, which houses a computer, printer (when it can’t go “paperless”) and a flat screen television. BIM 360 Field is accessible via the data vault, as well as PDFs of all 895 construction-drawing sheets.

But the major change is the use of drone technology. Danis is an early adopter thanks to a special Federal Aviation Administration exemption to use it commercially, and it has become a valuable asset to the Dayton Children’s Hospital project, as well as several other Danis projects. 

The drone documents work progress from vantage points that Danis otherwise would not be able to access. Also, it allows the company to inspect the exterior of the building up close, without putting someone at risk in a harness, swing stage or a lift. “We can fly up after a heavy rain and see where water is collecting on a roof,” Albertson explains. “Most hospitals get built one chunk at a time so you have a bunch of different roof areas, which makes drainage and roof leaks a long-term concern with hospitals. This way, we can immediately put the drone up there and get a bird’s-eye view.”

Danis hired Rob Mauro, a former Marine Corps Cobra pilot and current MEP coordinator, to fly the drone. He developed all the protocols, allowing the company to become an early adopter. He even files a flight plan with the local medical helicopter operator and the hospital ED staff, which results in an FAA NOTAM since the hospital sees helicopter traffic regularly, even though the drone doesn’t fly higher than 400 feet AGL. “So far it’s working really well,” Albertson says. “We’re finding more and more uses for it everyday. For every use, there are probably 100 more we haven’t thought of. It’s an emerging technology and we’re trying to use it to do a better job serving our customers needs, and do it cost effectively and safely.”

Danis is also expanding its 3-D modeling and laser scanning capabilities via it’s newly created Virtual Design & Construction department. Because the company is building right in the middle of the existing hospital – in a “donut hole,” according to Albertson – it faced some complications in the original plans. But after laser scanning the existing structures, the team created a 3-D model to properly visualize and conceptualize the tower, and to place it in the proper location with respect to the existing structures, something that otherwise could have cost the project a substantial amount had the tower not been located properly.  

3-D modeling allows Danis to do more prefabrication, which reduces costs and time. For the children’s hospital, Danis is installing prefabbed storm drains, MEPF corridor racks, mechanical shaft risers, headwalls in patient rooms, sections of the underground electrical conduit and more. “Prefab is usually better because you’re building in a safer environment with better quality control,” Albertson explains. “It’s going to save time and reduce workers on the job site. All emerging technology from the 3-D modeling is providing this capability.”

Business As Usual

Over its 50-year history, Dayton Children’s Hospital has made some major additions, such as a new parking garage, outpatient clinic and renovations to its emergency department. But none has been as large as the new tower – or right in the middle of the hospital. Therefore, Danis had to ask: How do you build up a tower while keeping everyone safe and maintaining business as usual?

Danis has a number of protocols in place to make it work. It uses a computer-controlled management system on the tower crane that monitors where the crane is, where the trolley is and where not to swing the crane, which means the operator cannot inadvertently swing a load over the hospital. 

The company has invested in a safety debris catch-net system that will be installed on the perimeter at the second level and supported at the third level, where the tower interfaces with the hospital, and extends to about 15 feet. It’s not intended so much for fall protection, but if someone drops a hammer or a 2x4 it won’t hit someone or the neighboring roofs. Danis also employs a full-time safety engineer who conducts regular inspections of the job, looking for areas of potential risk and improvement. 

“We have site-specific orientation for all new workers,” Albertson adds. “We also cover how you can be a good citizen working in and around the children’s hospital. Everyone has a specific colored sticker on their hardhat. Anyone can see the stickers and can see these guys have been properly trained.”

To maintain these protocols, Danis has developed a close working relationship with the hospital’s clinical, facilities and maintenance staffs. The company has, so far, conducted 90 temporary shutdowns and tie-ins in the hospital to perform work on the basement and foundation. Albertson believes that without close-working relationships with hospital staff, Danis would not be as successful on this job. So far, there have been no disruptions of service that weren’t planned. 

“There are some things that get to be a real challenge without some level of impact to operations,” Albertson says. “You try to minimize those. But management of expectations with the hospital staff has probably been the biggest success story here because we’ve been able to accomplish so many things here. Eighty-five percent of our business is repeat and we do that by keeping clients happy through good communication, planning and cooperation.” 

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