McCarthy Incorporates Small Business Mentoring to Ensure Success of Omaha Healthcare Project
Each phase of the new $22 million CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center University Campus in Omaha, Nebraska, offered its own challenges. First the preconstruction team needed to reduce the budget by $11 million. Then, soil conditions on the 12-acre site delayed construction by nearly two months. Just as construction manager and general contractor McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., of Omaha made up that time, the owner asked them to pause work.
Ultimately, the 80,000-square-foot, two-story facility opened on time and on budget late last year, offering the region's first freestanding emergency department, as well as outpatient and diagnostic services, physical therapy, a pharmacy, and learning spaces for medical students. Throughout the project, McCarthy reached out to the local community and provided education, resources, and mentoring to engage small businesses in the construction work and help them grow.
Shrinking the Budget
McCarthy joined the preconstruction team in the summer of 2014, helping to combine the goals of CHI Health - a private, regional healthcare network aiming to build a cost-effective, community-centered facility - with the teaching needs of Creighton University's Family Medicine Residency Program.
Extensive value analysis sessions brought the cost down to CHI Health's $22 million budget while maintaining design integrity. For instance, "It was a very hilly site with a lot of elevation changes, so where the building was first positioned meant a large cost to move earthwork and put in retaining walls," explained Ryan Sawall, McCarthy's Project Director. "We worked with the architect to shift the location about 30 feet to the east - without affecting the site flow or program - and saved $1 million in excavation and retaining wall costs."
McCarthy also developed a plan that reduced costs while meeting the project's goal of small business involvement. "Because all the patient room walls were repetitive, we prefabricated them," Sawall said. "We drew them and engineered them, then small businesses made them in a little prefab shop we put together."
To create the prefab shop, McCarthy converted a building on the jobsite that was scheduled for demolition. "It was an old insurance adjustment facility so it had three overhead doors; it worked out perfectly to set up an assembly line for the panels," Sawall said. "We saved money by phasing the work to use the facility before it was demolished."
In that shop, Mustang Electric, Inc., an MBE contractor in Omaha, Nebraska, roughed in electrical on the panels. Future Construction Specialties of Omaha, Nebraska, an MBE/WBE carpenter, handled the studs and blocking.
"Because Future Construction only had four employees at the time, we took the work that would typically be done over a two-month period with a crew of 20 and had them do it over a six-month period with their four-person crew," Sawall said. "We scheduled it so they finished the panels before the building was even ready for them."
When it came time to install the walls, "Since the framing and rough-in were already done, we were able to stand them up very quickly to save money and at least a month of time," Sawall added.
That time savings helped make up seven weeks lost when geotechnical analysis determined soil conditions required special measures to prevent settling under the building. "The engineers had us load 8 feet of dirt and sand on top of the pad location to accelerate compression," Sawall said. "When the settling reached a predetermined point, we removed the extra dirt and proceeded with construction."
Later in the project, the client asked McCarthy to slow down construction in order to properly tie in with the completion of additional system projects. "They were decommissioning a hospital and with part of the services going to our building and part to another project, they wanted the two facilities to open at about the same time," Sawall explained. "In addition, with all the uncertainty in healthcare these days, they wanted to wait until the next fiscal year to spend money."
McCarthy was able to accommodate the slowdown. "We delayed work that hadn't started so our subs wouldn't have to mobilize twice, but we tried to keep the people already onsite productive," Sawall said. "Instead of going to two crews as planned, we stayed with one crew and then brought the other teams on later when the next fiscal year started."
Growing Small Businesses
Throughout the project, McCarthy made special efforts to help subcontractors, especially small businesses. In addition to working with Mustang Electric and Future Construction on the prefabricated walls, McCarthy utilized a small contractor for demolition and earthwork. To create additional opportunities for smaller companies, they broke out specialty items - such as hand rails, fire extinguisher cabinets, and sidewalks - into separate contracts. With 16 small contractors involved, the team met the project goal of 12 percent participation.
To achieve that goal, McCarthy partnered with the Greater Omaha Chamber, Nebraska Enterprise Fund, and other organizations. They also hosted multiple outreach sessions. "We told all the subcontractors we'd be happy to meet with them before they bid," Sawall said. "Some of these subs didn't have a handle on how to estimate what they were bidding on. We offered to sit down with them and do quantity take-offs and help as much as they wanted."
After the bidding, "We spent time with every subcontractor in a planning debrief to go over what they did well and where they need to improve," Sawall added. "For the subs that were brought onto the job, we set up training sessions to help them with things like accounting, creating safety plans, and developing quality plans. In addition to helping them succeed on this project, they could take that into other jobs with other companies and be more sophisticated and capable."
That mentoring helped the small businesses grow. For instance, Future Construction expanded from four to 20 employees in their shop.
McCarthy also reaped benefits from their efforts. "The capacity of subs is a big challenge now," Sawall said. "Growing new folks is a way we can combat that issue. McCarthy has a company initiative to involve small and diverse businesses. On this project, the owner also expressed interest in involving local, small businesses so our team said, "˜Let's figure this out and knock it out of the park.' We have great relationships with a lot of the small business community now and want to continue expanding that and creating opportunities."