Hartford Hospital Parking Garage
In an effort to meet the evolving needs of patients, Connecticut’s Hartford Hospital launched a massive modernization project in 2011 dubbed HH2020. The effort consists of a series of renovations and new construction to revitalize core areas of the hospital’s 2.5 million-square-foot campus, starting with a brand-new parking garage.
“With capital investments going toward medical and information technology, we found we were falling behind on our general facility work,” explains Bimal Patel, vice president of support services for Hartford Hospital. “HH2020 has given us the opportunity to be progressive, but also nimble in our health care reform.”
With sights set on a new future for Hartford Hospital, work on the first major project, the Hudson Street Employee Parking Garage (Hudson Garage), finally commenced. Downes Construction Company (Downes) was awarded the large-scale contract. Jeffrey Anderson, lead project manager for Downes, and his project management team tackled the challenging project head-on.
“The Hudson Garage is the major component of the $28 million, 10-year HH2020 plan,” shares Anderson. “The point of the hospital’s master plan is to improve the patient experience. They really wanted an award-winning garage unlike something people had seen before. It’s the first thing you see looking toward the hospital when approaching from downtown Hartford, so it needed to be distinctive. The architect certainly delivered.”
Anderson is quick to point out that Downes was happy to take on the project. “We were delighted that Hartford Hospital chose Downes to deliver this project,” he says. “Downes has completed multiple large parking structures in the area and a similar one for another hospital in Hartford previously.”
Gearing up for an Above-average Garage
Anderson and his team set out to replace the 300-space surface lot with a multistory 1,215-space garage in one year. The new garage also includes electrical car-charging stations and a 5,000-square-foot state-of-the-art employee fitness center located at the front of the structure.
“Parking for both patients and staff was a major challenge for Hartford Hospital before the new garage,” explains Anderson. “The garage is dedicated to employee parking, which will free up much-needed space in other parts of the campus for patient use. This goes along with their philosophy of improving the patient experience.”
However, Anderson knew he needed to plan and assemble a talented team before breaking ground on-site. “The owner wanted more than just a parking garage, but a structure that really speaks to its mission statement,” he details.
Of course, Anderson had help. “Aside from customary challenges inherent with a precast parking structure of its magnitude, architect Perkins + Will really broke from the norm with their design,” he details. “To achieve an interesting aesthetic appeal, Perkins + Will incorporated 3-D precast spandrel panels along with ribbed walls. In addition, architectural stainless steel panels manufactured in Germany and custom perforated-aluminum panels of varying colors were supported from the precast spandrels. These elements achieve a unique look that changes throughout the day based sunlight.”
Anderson admits it was an aggressive schedule. “We started the project in January 2012 with a set completion date for January 2013,” he says. “Between the aggressive schedule, high expectations and unique design elements, we had to find subcontractors capable of delivering the required scope of work. Of the utmost importance, of course, was to find the right precast concrete contractor, because there’s a limited contractor base in this area capable of a precast parking garage as complex as this one. So our main concern was to find a precaster who could fabricate the unique precast components and meet the aggressive schedule.”
After a thorough bid process, Downes recommended Unistress Corporation, an experienced precast concrete contractor from Pittsfield, Mass. “Unistress Corporation proved during the process that they could handle the schedule, scope, challenges and uniqueness of the project,” Anderson says.
Once Anderson assembled his ideal team, including the site contractor, concrete contractor and precaster, the garage began to take shape. “There were always discussions and open communication between Downes, the architect, engineer and all trades,” says Anderson. “Construction projects such as this always consist of an in-depth process, but especially in this case with the unique façade. We held regular meetings and everyone focused on teamwork to make it happen.”
Anderson comments that certain aspects of the garage were almost like a design-build project, even though it wasn’t specifically labeled as such. “One of the many challenges was to make the architect’s vision become reality,” he says. “As most know in this business, sometimes the way things are drawn simply cannot be done. Perkins + Will was flexible throughout the shop drawing process.”
Coordination from a design standpoint was critical, but also logistical due to the urban environment. “This site was tight,” notes Anderson. “It was like threading a needle in the downtown location. We had to rent city property to bring the crane in and we spent a lot of time finding off-site locations to store precast material while everything else was going into place.” In addition to the site constraints, Anderson’s team had to remove an extensive amount of contaminated soil from the area before moving forward.
Despite a handful of challenges and an out-of-the-box design, Downes and the subcontractors were able to deliver Hudson Garage on schedule. “Hitting that January 2013 date was a huge milestone for us,” shares Anderson. “It was extremely important to the hospital’s daily operations to meet that date, because we had displaced an employee parking lot.”
Though proud of his team, Anderson also attributes the project’s success to Downes’ partners. “We really couldn’t have done it without expert coordination,” adds Anderson. “There was a discussion on how we were going to make things happen right down to the last day of the project.” With the addition of Hartford Hospital’s Parking Garage, the hospital is on track to revitalizing the campus thanks to Anderson’s seasoned project management and the Downes Construction team.
For more information about Downes Construction Company, please visit: www.downesco.com.
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