Hospital in Maine Completed by Alabama Construction and Engineering Firm

With the words “Building With Purpose” on its website, the Alabama construction and engineering firm Robins & Morton has just completed work on a new, $300 million, state-of-the-art regional hospital in Augusta, Maine. The MaineGeneral Medical Center’s new hospital is scheduled to open its doors on Nov. 9. And in an interview with the Kennebec Journal, the facility’s president and chief executive officer, Chuck Hays, called it, “the largest healthcare construction project in the state’s history.”

MaineGeneral Medical Center hired the privately-held Alabama firm, which Engineering News Record Magazine listed as one of the “100 Largest U.S. Builders.” The firm worked under what is called integrated project delivery (IPD) contractual agreement. IPD is a growing trend in construction in which owners and construction and design teams work together throughout the entire build process rather than each company handing over the project to another once its work is complete. Everyone, therefore, shares all the risks, as well as the profits.

For this project, all of the contractors, architects and owners worked together out of a room on the site to manage the project so everything was transparent, says Robert Gambrell, Robins & Morton’s senior vice president. Nearly every decision, he says, was made jointly, which saved time and prevented waste.

“The more involved the owners and the more guidance the owners are able to give through the whole process, the faster the project can proceed, ” says Gambrell. “We were projected to complete the job in 33 months. We’re on target to finish in 24 months.”

The hospital is four stories tall and 640, 000 square feet with 192 private rooms, 10 operating rooms, an emergency room, a helipad and a large education center with meeting rooms. The complex also includes a medical office building and enough space for future expansion, Gambrell says.

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Project Particulars

PROJECT NAME MaineGeneral Medical Center
VALUE $250 million
LOCATION Augusta, Me
GENERAL CONTRACTOR Robins & Morton Construction
MAJOR SUBCONTRACTORS Maine Masonry Co., Porter Drywall, G & E Roofing

To help speed up the building process, the building’s exterior walls were prefabricated off site in a warehouse by Porter Panel & Truss in Portland, Maine. The prefab wall panels, which averaged 10 feet by 20 feet, were transported by trailer to the construction site for installation, Gambrell says.

“They were hoisted in place with a crane, ” says Gambrell, “and then welded to the steel frame of the building. They’re made of metal framing and exterior sheathing and a waterproofing membrane. We were able to close in the facility faster so that the winter had less impact on the construction that would follow. So we were able to erect the panels and put heat in those spaces and then proceed with our normal building operations.”

The new hospital also was constructed in a way to help save the environment and utility costs. Hospital officials wanted the building to obtain a silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Gambrell says the project, however, has enough credits to apply for a possible gold LEED certification instead.

The building’s sustainable features include low-flow water fixtures, LED lighting, natural gas, and the installation of a tight building envelope in which the walls and windows are put together in a way to prevent heat loss and drafts. The building’s cooling system makes ice in the central energy plant at night. “So during the day, water is piped through that ice to cool the building, ” he says.

In addition, rainwater harvesting provides make-up water to the cooling towers and other hydronic systems in the building.

As the hospital prepares for its open house, Gambrell says he enjoys seeing the massive facility near completion.

“I think almost anyone in this business takes great pride in the change that you see every day. I think that’s one of the things that draw people to construction. You see the accomplishments of your efforts every day. It’s gratifying. Especially to build a hospital because the ultimate goal is to provide a facility that helps heal people. It’s a terribly gratifying experience.”

Gail Allyn Short is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.

Text by Gail Allyn Short

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