Webcor Builders

With 284 beds and 14 operating rooms on 10 floors – eight above grade and two below grade – the seven-year process to build the new San Francisco General Hospital is a complicated one. So general contractor Webcor Builders is maintaining close contact with the owner and architect, and is utilizing building information modeling to mitigate any problems with the help of the virtual world.

“We work very closely with the owner’s team and the hospital’s team, and we have multiple meetings per week,” Project Director Thomas Taylor says. 

“We’re using modeling in order to demonstrate what’s going to happen to all parties involved and flesh out all conflicts before they happen. We’re resolving many problems in a virtual environment before they happen.”

Webcor also broke up construction of the $690 million structure into four phases. Phase one consists of site utilities relocation and replacement; phase two includes service building modifications and equipment additions; phase three consists of excavations, foundations and structure frame; and phase four includes the new acute building enclosure and build-out. Each phase is broken up into many smaller segments to “work through issues one small piece at a time,” Taylor notes. “That’s been very effective thus far.”

Construction on the hospital began in 2008, and it is on track to be completed in 2015. When finished, the hospital and its steel frame will meet seismic requirements in the city. Its base-isolated structure allows the building to move 30 inches in any direction in the event of a seismic event. San Francisco General Hospital also will be home to the city’s only level-one trauma center. Trauma centers are ranked in three levels, and level one is the most severe; level-one trauma centers provide the highest level of surgical care to trauma patients.

The San Francisco General Hospital, designed by local firm Fong & Chan Architects, is being built to LEED gold standards, Taylor says. Green features include energy-efficient mechanical systems, local and regional building materials, increased ventilation and daylighting. 

Tight Squeeze

The new San Francisco General Hospital is being built adjacent to the existing hospital, to which it will connect via a tunnel and bridge. “We needed to interrupt and reroute extensive utilities in an existing tunnel,” Taylor says. “That tunnel will be removed in order to allow construction of the new hospital.”

Although the hospital site isn’t a large one, Taylor says it’s a historic one. “There’s been some form of a hospital on this campus since the mid-1800s, so it’s a San Francisco landmark right in the heart of the city,” he explains. “The primary reason for the new hospital is to meet seismic requirements. And the existing facility was opened in the ’70s, so some aspects of it are not able to take advantage of the latest and greatest technology.”

Team Approach

Webcor and hospital owner San Francisco Department of Public Works previously worked together on the California Academy of Science, and Taylor says that familiarity, paired with the builder’s expertise, is making for a successful project. “It’s the way that we work with designers and the owner in the preconstruction phase, taking advantage of best practices in the industry and applying them up-front,” he states.

“[On the California Academy of Science project], the DPW was very pleased with the different approach that Webcor brought to the project,” he continues. “It wasn’t your typical adversarial approach that sometimes exists on public jobs. We worked very much as a partner, and we were able to carry that over to this job.”

Webcor also called on a number of local business enterprises (LBE) to work as subcontractors on the job. Although many local subcontractors are smaller in size and experience, Taylor says the contractor is making the most out of their skills to meet the city’s requirements. “There’s a strong push to include as much local participation as possible,” he notes. “We’re working by partnering them with larger contractors and breaking the work into small pieces that are suitable to those trades. Thus far, we’ve more than doubled the LBE goal, so we’re very proud of that.” 

Upon the hospital’s completion and opening, Taylor says he will be most proud of providing a shot in the arm to Webcor’s home state. “It’s definitely going to rejuvenate the economy, and there is a tremendous amount of jobs being created by the project,” he notes. “And the fact that we’re providing a world-class hospital and the only level-one trauma center in the city in an area that needs it. This is something that will benefit the people of city for generations.”

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