Walsh-Consigli JV Transforms Vassar Brothers Medical Center
Poughkeepsie’s Largest Project Well Under Way
The steel skeleton of the stunning new $545 million patient pavilion at Vassar Brothers Medical Center, the largest project in Poughkeepsie’s history, is rising from the ground.
“This project represents the most significant transformation of the medical center since its inception in 1887,” says John Nelson, Director of Public and Community Affairs for the nonprofit Health Quest Systems in LaGrangeville, New York, of which Vassar Brothers is the flagship hospital. “We will transform patient care and the patient and family experience with this project.”
The innovative 752,000-square-foot patient pavilion will have eight floors, new operating rooms, 264 private medical/surgical rooms and 30 critical care rooms. A lobby, conference center, administrative offices, a cafeteria and a 66-bay emergency department will occupy the first floor. The second floor will house operating rooms and critical care rooms, and the third floor is a mechanical space. Patient rooms are on floors four through seven with the eighth floor shelled for future use.
“We are building, because the existing medical/surgical beds are outdated,” Nelson explains. “This transformation of healthcare in the region requires state-of-the art facilities to provide patients with the privacy and healing environment they deserve.”
Greater Space and Privacy
Larry Bell, Vice President of Construction for Health Quest, explains that the move toward private rooms is a national trend and becoming a standard in healthcare.
To provide a pre-construction look at the interior of the patient pavilion, prototypes of a medical/surgical room, an ICU room, and care centers were built. These are open to the public and staff to visit, so they can better understand the extent of the hospital’s transformation.
Both the medical/surgical and critical care rooms will have ample space for families and visitors to encourage patient-centered healing and care.
“We also are using the prototype for staff training,” Bell says. “Our project management staff is doing rapid-improvement exercises, and we are looking at processes and how things will be done in the new hospital.”
Vassar Brothers also has used the prototype for design refinement and as an employee recruitment tool. Contractors can see what the finished product should look like. And it has opened the prototype for legislative and fundraising events.
“It’s a unique place to show what the future is and what our commitment is to the community,” Nelson says.
The hospital is funding the project through a combination of bond proceeds, cash reserves, donations and grants. The city has been very supportive throughout the permitting process and during construction, Bell adds.
“We have had great support from the community, which will see this as a landmark and asset for the community, a gateway to the city and a site known for excellent patient care, services and the home for our top-level medical staff,” Nelson says.
Nelson expects the hospital will become a site of economic growth and will entice physicians to relocate and establish practices in Poughkeepsie. Vassar Brothers has 1,600 full-time-equivalent healthcare jobs, which results in more than $308.7 million in economic activity.
“This is the beginning of a physical and intellectual renaissance,” Bell says, “and it will solidify Vassar Brothers’ place as the destination of choice for patients in the region.”
An Elegant Design
The new Vassar Brothers patient pavilion form follows the gentle, serpentine shoreline of the Hudson River and maximizes views of the waterway from the patient rooms.
“The gentle curve of the design provides a visual break as you are walking down corridors,” says Jay Stasack, Senior Associate at CallisonRTKL, headquartered in Baltimore, the architects for the project.
“It’s a beautiful, hotel-like design,” adds Timothy Grom, Director of Construction for Health Quest. “Using the latest in medical technology makes it a state-of-the-art facility.”
The Vassar Brothers team anticipates achieving LEED-certified status. An exterior terrace off the cafeteria will provide the public with views of the Hudson River. All low-level roof areas integrate plants and foliage for environmental and aesthetic purposes. The site and building design focus on water retention and reuse. Curtain wall glass and metal panels make up the exterior of the patient tower and the base is built with natural stone and terra cotta accents. High-performance dual-paneled glazing, with shades, is incorporated to reduce solar gain while maximizing views. Specific design attention, including low-reflectivity glass, was given to deter migrating birds from approaching the building.
Vassar Brothers is expanding services it provides to the community, including neurosciences, interventional radiology, and heart and vascular. The hospital recently became a provisional level two trauma center.
The project includes reconfiguring the existing campus, including creating separate access points for deliveries, emergency vehicles, staff, patients and visitors. Within the new building, there are separate elevators for patients, public, staff and materials.
Walsh-Consigli Joint Venture of Chicago, the project’s construction manager, broke ground on September 13, 2016. The joint venture is a partnership between Walsh Construction of Chicago, Illinois, and Consigli Construction Co. of Albany, New York.
One challenge was the number of utilities on the site. New utilities had to be installed, existing relocated, and old ones removed. Additionally, the hospital had to relocate its existing power plant and remove a 150-foot-tall smokestack. Construction crews installed a temporary metal smokestack and servicing ductwork. The smokestack in the new building will go through the structure. New broilers and generators will be installed in the subbasement of the new building.
The lowest point in the new building is 70 feet above the river. The concrete foundation sits on rock. The contractors did more than 100 blasts to remove 100,000 cubic feet of rock next to the existing hospital.
“The blasts were not like in the cowboy movies,” Bell explains. “We drilled down up to 70 feet, placed charges and covered the area with mats weighing up to 12,000 pounds each to stifle the blast and prevent debris from flying into the air.”
Blasting started at the south end, farthest from the existing hospital. For each blast, the crews placed up to 12 mats on top of the area being blasted to contain the charge. The mats, totaling 50 to 60 tons, muffled the sound and vibration. Even so, Vassar Brothers monitored vibration to ensure no damage was occurring to the existing facility’s foundation and surrounding properties and ensure it was not disruptive to patients and staff.
“Virtually no vibration was felt in the hospital since each blast only lasted milliseconds,” Bell adds. “Rock hammering would have made continuous noise and vibration.”
Even so, the construction team prepared the medical, nursing and ancillary staff for the upcoming blasts – 24 hours prior to a blast, an hour prior, five minutes prior and one minute prior. Clinical staff had the authority to stop a blast, but never did, something Grom attributed to good communication that allowed surgeons and others to plan around scheduled blasts and support for the project.
“It was awesome,” Nelson says. “It was not intrusive.”
The project is on time for December 2019 completion, and it remains on budget.
“This is so much more than just a new building,” said Ann McMackin, President of the medical center at the groundbreaking. “This project allows us to change how patients in our region experience healthcare…It’s a symbol of the renewed economic growth in Dutchess County and the mid-Hudson Valley and of the renaissance happening before our eyes in the City of Poughkeepsie.”
- Owner: Health Quest Systems, LaGrangeville, New York
- Architect: CallisonRTKL Architects, P.C., Chicago, Illinois
- MEP Engineers: Bard, Rao + Athanas Consulting Engineers, Boston, Massachusetts
- Structural Engineers: Graef, Chicago, Illinois
- Civil Engineers: Chazen Companies, Poughkeepsie, New York
- Landscape Architect: Dirtworks Landscape Architecture, P.C., New York City, New York
- Owner’s Representative: Stantec Consulting Services, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Construction Manager: Walsh-Consigli Joint Venture, Chicago, Illinois
- Commissioning Agent: dbHMS, Chicago, Illinois