Turner Construction Co. – University of Kentucky

There are not many construction firms that can take on a project that is upwards of a couple hundred million dollars at any time, yet alone when a recession is causing many firms to scale back its operations. But when the University of Kentucky decided it was time to build a new patient care facility, it found the right crew for the job at Turner Construction Co.

Project Executive Larry Blackburn notes that Modern Healthcare ranks Turner as the No. 1 builder in the healthcare market, and estimates that 25 to 30 percent of the company’s work is in the healthcare field, making it the right fit for the University of Ken­t­ucky’s $352 million patient care facility in Lex­ington.

“With a job of this size, having the bonding capacity and staff resources, with healthcare construction experience, makes it a very good fit for Turner,” Blackburn says.

However, as construction manager at-risk on the project, Turner needed to make sure it was hiring subcontractors that also could handle the high-expense project. “It’s challenging because of the size of the bid packages – we had to reach out nationwide to subcontractors who have the bonding capacity and resources to handle it, and also have the staff,” Blackburn explains.

With the mechanical work costing $30 million alone, Blackburn explains that it was too large for local subcontractors in Lexington. “Turner, being national, was able to reach out to Nashville [Tenn.], Indianapolis and Chicago,” he says. “With our subcontractor master list, we knew we could handle this type of project.”

In addition to its nationwide search, Turner broke down the scope of work into smaller components. For example, instead of opening bidding on the electrical package as a whole, there was the vertical package – going to Gaylor Electric’s Indianapolis branch – that included electrical equipment; switch gear and all vertical shaft piping and wiring; and a separate horizontal piping package –won by Dixon Electrical Systems & Contracting Inc. of Huntington, W.Va. – that included all branch piping and wiring.

But the university also wanted local contractors to benefit from the job, especially since they were members of the community the hospital would serve. “We try to get some of the larger, regional contractors to partner up with some of the local contractors,” Blackburn says. He mentions that although Turner hired a plumping contractor from Chicago – International Piping Systems (IPS) – it also brought on a local plumber – Nelson Stark Plumbing – to do some storm and sanitary work for IPS. He says the partnership strategy has worked well on the project.

Power of BIM

The University of Kentucky’s goal for the new patient care facility is to replace its current healthcare building, the Albert B. Chandler Hospital. The 1.2 million-square-foot complex is being constructed in multiple phases for step-by-step replacement of the existing hospital. 

The new four-story facility will contain an emergency department, radiology, operating rooms, same day surgery, post-anesthesia care and recovery area with two separate eight-floor patient bed towers with mostly private rooms. The rooms will be flexible in that they can be converted into intensive care units if necessary. The patient floor is 68,265 square feet and the emergency room is 35,795 square feet.

To accomplish the challenge of this mega-project, Turner is utilizing building information modeling (BIM). Blackburn points out the construction of the mechanical floor, which was planned and coordinated through BIM, and amounted to a 100,000-square-foot footprint needing 1.2 million pounds of ductwork and 6.3 miles of conduit. “It allowed the contractor to get a jump on the schedule and prefabricate systems,” Blackburn says. “Once work began, we didn’t have any issues and avoided change orders to resolve conflicts between mechanical systems because it was all worked out ahead of time. It was the first time I’ve used BIM to this magnitude and it really worked out well.”

On Time and Safe

A stipulation of the contract called for an early turnover stage of the emergency department. Although total construction will be finished March 2011, Turner needed to have the emergency department ready by July 14.

“We had to build a temporary emergency department in the footprint of the new lobby, and build the new emergency department and have it ready for the hospital by July 14,” Blackburn says.

“We are finishing two patient floors and the lobby right now,” he adds. “We planned phased occupancy in the overall construction schedule to allow us to do this. To date, everything’s been moving on schedule.”

More important than being on schedule, there have been no major accidents on the job, which can be a challenge to one of this size. Turner conducts safety luncheons and every crew member must attend Turner’s safety orientation and the university’s own safety program. “It has been a primary focus, and has paid off since we’re without any serious accidents,” Blackburn asserts. “We have two safety superintendents – Dave Busch and Finley Lyons – on staff and they monitor that safe practices are being implemented on the job by over 500 tradesmen. It’s a monumental task, but they’re doing a tremendous job.”

In fact, taking on monumental tasks is something that, for Turner Construction, is proving to be quite simple.

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