Piedmont Atlanta Tower Expansion Moving Forward for Early Completion
Exceeding Expectations: Brasfield & Gorrie on Track to Complete $452.7 Million Piedmont Atlanta Tower Ahead of Schedule
The new $452.7 million Piedmont Atlanta Tower topped out this spring, and it remains on budget and on schedule for a summer 2020 completion.
“Brasfield & Gorrie has done a fabulous job, exceeding our standards most of the time,” says Amanda Mewborn, Executive Director of Project Management at Piedmont Healthcare. “We are expected to open eight weeks ahead of schedule.”
The construction firm, based in Birmingham, Alabama, has completed work at Piedmont Healthcare’s other campuses, but this project is the first at the health system’s flagship midtown hospital.
The tower will house the Marcus Heart and Vascular Center as well as the Samsky Invasive Cardiovascular Services Center, with 408 beds all in single rooms, 12 catheterization and electrophysiology suites and 10 cardiovascular operating rooms. The ORs have video recording capacity, allowing physicians in training, worldwide, to learn from the Piedmont experts without actually being in the OR.
The Marcus Foundation made a $75 million donation and Brett, Louise and Connor Samsky pledged $11 million. About 80 donors contributed $100,000 or more to support the project.
“The community is expanding, and people are moving to Atlanta faster than inpatient use rates are declining,” Mewborn says. “Eighty percent of the time, the hospital operates at capacity.”
Additionally, the hospital moved to its current site during the 1950s. Its campus contains several aging buildings, which are not easily modified to current standards.
“We wanted to transform the patient and visitor experience,” Mewborn says. “It also will be wonderful for our staff.”
The 16-story concrete structure is as tall as a 25-story office building or hotel. Hospitals have high floor heights for the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, explains David Hajjar, an Operations Manager in general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie’s Atlanta office. The health system will open 10 floors in phase one and upfit the six additional floors over a five-year period.
Collaborating and Advance Planning
Brasfield & Gorrie began preconstruction services for the project in 2015, working closely with the architect, HKS, and began at the site in January 2017. The companies were hired at the same time and began working in partnership from the start.
“We did a lot of team-building events and getting to know each other,” Mewborn says. “That time we took from the beginning to get to know each other and appreciate each other as people led us into a collaborative nature. When there is a problem, no one is trying to figure out whose fault it is. Instead we focus on solving the problem. I have never worked with such an incredible team.”
Hajjar says the project team is utilizing an “integrated project delivery (IPD) lite” method.
“It promotes total team collaboration and fosters efficiency in production of the work,” Hajjar explains. “Collaboration and teamwork on this project have been better than ever in my career. Piedmont has been open and fair, treating us as partners.”
The project team is using lean scheduling methods, such as pull planning, to improve efficiency and productivity of meetings and planning and accountability of every work hour. These methods involve creating weekly work plans and daily pod meetings.
Mocking Up the Rooms
The team built several mock-ups. First, Brasfield & Gorrie carpenters created cardboard mock-up rooms, complete with cardboard-modeled medical equipment. Stakeholders were able to get a sense of the space and give feedback to the designers.
Then the team built a complete mock-up of an intensive care room and an acute care room down to the finishes, including installation of plumbing to test water flow in the shower and placement of real medical equipment. A multidisciplinary group of 41 clinicians visited the mocked-up rooms and ran different patient care scenarios. The clinicians recommended only one change. The design and construction team found 77 changes related to constructability.
Piedmont Healthcare also used virtual reality to allow people to visualize the larger areas. Brasfield & Gorrie recorded a “fly-through” video using the Revit model, which enabled people to “move” through the project.
Working Around a Busy Hospital
Brasfield & Gorrie demolished an existing eight-story building on the Piedmont campus. The building was dismantled mechanically to minimize construction effects on hospitalized patients. Crews used a long-reach excavator equipped with a demolition arm to take down the building.
The new tower connects to the existing hospital along 650 feet and over six stories. Prior to tie-in, the team will shut down and seal off all adjacent spaces in the existing building. Crews will then tie the two structures together and begin renovation of the current structure.
In any renovation area, crews must work in full containment and a negative pressure environment. Hospital employees check that patients can be safely moved around construction activities.
“It is important to us to protect our patients from the construction,” Mewborn says. “Piedmont is the safest hospital system in the state of Georgia, and we take pride in safety and quality. We hold our contractors to a high standard when it comes to infection prevention.”
The building sits on solid granite with rock footings and caissons. Brasfield & Gorrie blasted and hauled off 145,000 cubic yards of material to create the parking garage and central energy plant below the building. The lowest level sits approximately 40 feet below the existing hospital.
Brasfield & Gorrie self-performed the concrete work. More than 70 employees worked on the project in the field.
“We formed and placed 45,000 cubic yards in just over 15 months,” Hajjar says. “The structure was critical and by self-performing, we ensured completion in a timely manner.”
The company topped off the building a week ahead of the date set in 2015. More than 1,500 workers and team members enjoyed the ceremony and lunch. In honor of the event, subcontractors and Brasfield & Gorrie donated $110,000 for Kids’ Chance, a charity that provides college scholarships to young people whose parents have been injured in a workplace accident.
The structure has transfer girders, which utilize mass concrete. The girders are 6 feet wide and 12 feet tall and are used to transfer the building loads down through the open lobby and parking garage. The largest of the 13 transfer girders contains more than 180 post-tension cables and 80,000 pounds of rebar.
Brasfield & Gorrie also self-performed the rough carpentry, demolition, temporary waterproofing, and safety.
All together, more than 900 tradesmen and employees are currently working on the project at a tight site. Crew members park off site and are bused in. Just-in-time deliveries are managed and scheduled weeks in advance. Brasfield & Gorrie is performing about $800,000 worth of work daily.
All trades are working off a 3-D model in the new and existing building, including skin, shoring and underground utilities.
“We have modeled every major building component down to a 1/16-of-an-inch scale, to help with prefabrication and execution of the work,” Hajjar reports. “We prefabricated headwalls and all MEP systems. Prefabrication helps us overcome the current shortage of skilled labor in the market.”
With prefab, skilled labor is consolidated in a controlled environment and reduces cost, parking and other expenses for the owner.
The front side of the building will be clad with 160,000 square feet of glass curtain wall, and the back will have 75,000 square feet of terra cotta panels fabricated in Spain and shipped in containers to Atlanta. “The terra cotta is a modern complement to the existing brick façade,” Hajjar explains. Hajjar praised the project team and how everyone came together.
All together, more than 900 tradesmen and employees are currently working on the project at a tight site. Crewmembers park off site and are bused in. Just-in-time deliveries are managed and scheduled weeks in advance. Brasfield & Gorrie is performing about $800,000 worth of work daily
“I am extremely proud of the collaboration,” Mewborn says. “That’s how we are going to open eight weeks early.”