September 29, 2022
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Health care on high: A look at the Presbyterian Hospital expansion project

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If you walk this 11-story tower top to bottom, you will have traveled seven miles.

But this tower, for now, is still a construction zone. The smell of a construction zone is apparent. And this tower has more than 300 workers on site, representing dozens of subcontractors working on it to get it completed by the end of this year.

This tower is that of Presbyterian’s Downtown Hospital at 1100 Central SE. In May, the general contractor of the massive project — Jaynes Corp. — and architects from Dekker/Perich/Sabatini led a tour that included media, commercial business representatives and others to show the work that has been done. The tour was put together by NAIOP New Mexico, a commercial real estate development organization.

“Basically, it was always planned out to be roughly about a three-year project from start to finish,” said Sam Burns, a senior superintendent at Jaynes overseeing the project.

Indeed, the tower — which measures more than 300,000 square feet — is expected to be completed in the three-year timeline, Jaynes Corp. representatives said. The contractor began work on the project in 2019. Once the project is complete, total hospital space now stand at over 1 million square feet and the project comes at a cost of about $260 million for the hospital. The expansion, which also includes a now-completed three-story parking garage, translates to a nearly 30% increase in space, Burns said. It has been one of Jaynes’ largest projects to date.

The expansion of Presbyterian’s Downtown Hospital was in the works before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to address the aging population in health care, but has come at a time when more hospital beds are needed to address rises in coronavirus cases that require hospital stays.

Massive scope

Early construction included more than 100 shutdowns in various types of services for the infrastructure side of the project, including Presbyterian’s main sewer run that had to be replaced by a temporary lift station.

“It took us about a year just to get all of it ready for us to start foundation work on the project,” Burns said.

The 144 rooms — each room spans about 250 square feet — are included on floors three through eight. The tower also includes two subfloor levels, some of which will include space for a large “grossing” lab, where pathology specimens that are taken from patients are studied under a microscope. The upper-level floors, for now, are being left as shell space for future expansion.

And the tower includes a physician’s kitchen for employees of the hospital, as well as a garden. On the roof of the tower is the “penthouse,” which refers to the mechanical systems that will keep the tower flowing. Those systems include air handler units that supply air to the tower’s floors.

“We’re just finishing up a lot of the carbon steel piping that goes into the coil for water supply and return,” said Chris Burks, a project manager for Yearout Mechanical — one of the many subcontractors working on the project.

Changes to the project, however, took place as the pandemic became a reality for the contractors. Those changes include floors seven and eight being used specifically as isolation rooms for COVID-19 patients and others with ailments that need to be contained. PPE bins are in almost the entrance of every patient room in the tower.

Patient experience

Wall lights litter the halls of the tower instead of overhead lighting, allowing for patients to feel more comfortable not being blinded by the lights when they are being moved in their beds.

“If you’ve ever had a procedure at a hospital or had to stay at a hospital, you’ll get a questionnaire — basically a satisfaction thing that goes into the funding that the hospital actually receives,” said Wes Townsend, an intern architect with Dekker/Perich/Sabatini who worked on the project. “The patient experience is very important because the hospital can receive more funding if that is higher.”

Efficiency measures

The tower has some energy-saving attributes. That includes a cogeneration unit that can save the hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars, and maybe even a million or more, in annual utility costs, Burns said.

“It’s basically a generator that runs 24/7,” Burns said. “And, for the most part, it runs off natural gas. … It’s the first one that we’ve done. We’re actually fixing to get ready to install it. We’re waiting for a final permit to get through and then we can set that in. But that is one of the things that (Presbyterian is) trying to do to help with utility bills and some of the renewable energy that they can actually produce.”

The design layout of the hospital was done in a way that would allow for nurses and physicians to take fewer steps. Nurse stations on each patient floor are centered in the middle, as well as the equipment and medication spaces, among others. It was designed as a “racetrack,” Burns said.

“(They are) trying to reduce the number of steps that they have to take during the shift because if the nurses are getting worn out, that could have an impact on your patient ultimately,” Townsend said.

Presbyterian spokesperson Melanie Mozes said the tower is expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2023.



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