They are taking this hospital project to heart

Sometimes, GBPCA contractors and the Local 12 members who work for them might think about the offices, condos, lab spaces, or other end uses that their hard work will make possible. Most of the time, however, the focus is on the day-to-day work at the job site. That’s not the case with the Hale Family Building, an 15-story clinical facility now under construction at Boston Children’s Hospital.

“Our team is taking this job to heart,” says Jim Bent, senior project executive for GBPCA contractor American Plumbing and Heating. The building will include a state-of-the-art clinical lab, a comprehensive heart center, a re-imagined neonatal intensive care unit, and a number of other features. As one of the most respected and renowned pediatric hospitals, families from the region, the country, and around the world entrust BCH with the care of their children. The plumbers are acutely aware of the challenging cases Children’s takes, the critically important work it does, and the young patients it serves.

The job is particularly meaningful for a Local 12 member whose child had a heart-lung transplant at BCH. In honor of the child, workers inscribed his name, Ethan, on one of the beams at the site.

“We know how the facility will be used. It’s not just another building,” Bent adds.

Spanning over 590,000 square feet and costing $1 billion to construct, the project is quite large. From a plumbing perspective, it is a particularly big and complex job. At its height, American had 80 workers on the job. “That’s an incredible amount,” says Bent. “We’ve never had that many people at one site before.”

“It’s the biggest job I’ve ever seen for plumbing,” adds Barry Keady, Local 12 business agent. “It is a massive medical gas system.”

At one point, American had 35 workers focused on medical gas alone. Among its highlights, the Hale building includes ten hybrid operating rooms, multiple pre-op exam rooms and recovery rooms, and a cardiac clinic with 21 exam rooms. The facility will also feature 96 private, inpatient rooms outfitted with medical gas.

All of the patient rooms in the Hale Family Building will be private.

It is a trend among hospitals to build single-bed instead of shared patient rooms. The configuration allows families to have more privacy, something they especially appreciate during difficult and often emotional hospital experiences. Even the neonatal intensive care unit will have 30 beds in private rooms instead of open bays.

It is unusual for hospitals to integrate patient rooms with operating rooms, exam rooms, and a host of other services in one building. The Hale will also include a radiology suite, pharmacy services, and a pathology lab. Children’s says that the building’s all-inclusive design will enable it to offer more efficient, enhanced care as well as foster clinical collaboration. Neither patients and their families nor Children’s caregivers will have to leave the Hale.

The job is unusual for American as well. While medical facilities are among its specialties, the contractor typically builds one type of feature at a time, such as patient rooms or hospital labs. But the multi-purpose Hale has the plumbers working on a variety of spaces at once. It calls on many different, specialized skills and requires a lot of coordination.

In honor of a Local 12 member’s son who was a patient at Boston Children’s Hospital, workers inscribed his name on a beam.

American started the pre-planning process in 2016, and on-site construction began in 2018. Just before the pandemic forced the temporary closure of the job in March, the crew had completed work on most of the storm, sanitary, and water lines that run through an existing hospital building. 

The site, which reopened in May, was able to ramp up quickly, because while the Hale building will be connected to existing buildings, it is isolated from them during the construction process. The trades’ workers, therefore, do not have to worry about social distancing issues with patients, families, employees, and others at the hospital. Also, the plumbers got to return to the project first, because they had the responsibility of installing hand-washing sinks for all of the trades per coronavirus safety guidelines for construction sites.

The Hale building is located on what had been a central courtyard at the campus. In order to gain access to the site, an old granite building on Shattuck Street was taken down. It will be rebuilt at the end of the project. The courtyard had been the location of the beloved Prouty Garden, and its removal has caused controversy. (See related article in this issue.)

Despite the COVID-related shutdown, the project is slated to be finished on time with a planned opening scheduled for the third quarter of 2021.