By Chris Enders
Katrina, Irene, Sandy, Irma, Harvey are not just a list of random first names, but rather a stark reminder of extreme weather patterns that have raised the stakes for hospitals across the country to be able to provide seamless care to their patients. Such continuity during disasters requires intense facilities planning, considerable resources, and a unique construction proficiency that can guarantee hospital facilities are prepared for any type of event.
While it is mandatory for hospitals to have an emergency power system, there is a renewed emphasis on preparing for extended outages and verifying that the standby power system is connected to and powering the facility’s most critical loads. This critical focus is especially important if the healthcare facility is older and may have several independent emergency standby power systems located in different areas that were added as the facility expanded.
Gilbane Building Company and its design-build partner, Facilities Engineering Associates (FEA), are currently managing the emergency power systems upgrade project at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Conn. The project scope includes the decommissioning and removal of three undersized and antiquated generators, replacement of obsolete, paralleling gear, substations, and switchgear. The upgraded system consists of two new 1.25MW generators, new paralleling gear, and substations.
Any upgrade to emergency and critical power systems requires a meticulously choreographed strategy among facilities staff, clinical personnel, design engineers, and the construction management team. This is not your everyday upgrade where someone simply unplugs one system and soon thereafter plugs in the new equipment.
The success of these significant systems relies heavily on an astute team’s ability to clearly understand the hospital’s most critical needs and to disseminate that information across all project stakeholders in the form of efficient and economical solutions. It is imperative that construction managers have a certain level of expertise to execute detailed load verifications on old panelboards. This necessary proficiency allows the project team to then effectively communicate and understand how outages impact clinical staff and, ultimately, to position all hospital personnel to uphold their core mission of ensuring patient safety and the continuity of care.
Gilbane’s years of experience providing preconstruction and construction services within the healthcare marketplace continues to reshape how we approach such critical programs in these sensitive environments. The construction of a new hospital wing or the renovation of a lobby are always exciting and important. While these projects attract donors and garner industry awards, leading less glamorous, yet arguably more significant projects, like the installation of St. Mary’s generators is imperative to seamless delivery of patient care.
Chris Enders is a project executive with Gilbane Building Company in Connecticut.