UNC - Skanska USA Building

Uncertainty has been looming over the construction market in many states for the past three years, and it’s no different in North Carolina, according to Raymond Lafrenaye, the University of North Carolina Health Care System’s vice president of facilities and planning. He says construction activity has decreased, but construction material prices seem to be increasing.

“We have questions like everyone else about what the economy will do to construction projects,” Lafrenaye says. “It’s the big unknown – what prices will be in the coming months. It appears prices are going up now even though our economy has not yet recovered.”

The economic uncertainty has caused many groups to hold off on large construction projects in recent years. Though University of North Carolina (UNC) Health Care System faces the same challenges in the uncertain market, the group is certain about one thing – that couldn’t prevent them from serving their community.

On April 20, UNC Health Care broke ground on a new physicians’ office building and general hospital in Hillsborough, N.C., that is scheduled to be completed in 2015. The construction project is broken into four chronological phases, and the construction team is currently in the first phase, which includes moving and grading soils to enable the site for ground up construction. Lafrenaye says the construction team also has encountered large amounts of rock that required blasting.

The second phase includes the building of the core and shell of the central utility plant and the physician office building. The three-story, 60,000-square-foot physicians’ office building will be fit out in phase three. The hospital is aiming to have this part of the project open to the public by spring 2013. In addition to the actual building, this phase includes parking, internal roads, sidewalks, site lighting and landscaping.

Once the physicians’ office building has been completed, the team will begin the fourth phase, which is construction of the hospital. The new 68-bed hospital, comprised of 50 acute beds and 18 intensive care patient beds, will be completed in 2015. It will house six operating rooms, two surgical procedure rooms, a second-level emergency department, administrative support services, urgent care imaging and oncology.

The project is targeting LEED certification. Lafrenaye says the hospital has not yet determined which level it will seek, but the design incorporates efficient mechanical and plumbing systems, as well as landscaping that requires minimal irrigation.

The project – which will cost approximately $200 million to complete – is one of the newest additions to the UNC Health Care System, which is the not-for-profit healthcare system owned by the state of North Carolina. Lafrenaye explains the new building is in direct response to the high demand at its main hospital campus in Chapel Hill, N.C., just 10 miles away from Hillsborough.

“We are moving some services off the main campus and relocating those services to a more convenient and accessible location,” he says. “The main campus is pretty congested. This new hospital is part of a long-term strategy to move less complicated services off the main campus and streamline services on the main campus to serve the more extreme cases.” By moving 68 patient beds from Chapel Hill to Hillsborough, UNC Health Care will be able to add or expand critical care services at its Chapel Hill facility.

A Trusted Team

The Hillsborough project comes at the heels of another major UNC Health Care project that was completed in 2009. The project team for the North Carolina Cancer Hospital included two major players working on the Hillsborough physician office building and hospital, as well.

One of those team members is construction manager Skanska USA Building. The national construction firm is part of an international organization that builds residential, commercial and institutional projects. Another major team player who worked on the North Carolina Cancer Hospital and now on the Hillsborough project is architectural firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca (ZGF) Architects LLP. The national firm has offices on the east and west coasts and has worked on projects in sectors such as healthcare, academic and commercial. For the Hillsborough project, ZGF was one-half of an architectural joint venture with the Raleigh-based firm BJAC pa.

Skanska and ZGF helped produced a successful project on the North Carolina Cancer Hospital, which Lafrenaye says was a contributing factor on their selection for the Hillsbor­ough project, however, it was not the only one. “Some of the things we look for are how many similar type projects has the firm worked on, how many similar type projects in the local region have they worked on, what there planning process is for the project, how successful with maintaining a budget they were on recently completed projects and any references from recent projects,” Lafrenaye says.

He says that so far, Skanska and others on the project have met UNC Health Care’s needs. “They have been very helpful on this project and very knowledgeable,” he says. “It’s still early in construction, but things are pretty smooth so far."

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