As the landscape bloomed to life and filled in the Chester County Hospital campus this spring, a steady progression of steel beams being lifted skyward added a new dimension to the vibrancy.
The beams are creating the framework for a 250,000-square foot expansion of the hospital and a 26,000-square foot renovation of its Emergency Department. The steel framework is on track to be completed in July.
The expansion follows a trend of growth within the health system. In May 2017, Penn Medicine broke ground on the Pavilion, the largest capital building project in Penn’s history and Philadelphia’s most sophisticated and ambitious healthcare building. For Chester County, the last beam on the expansion was placed in early June. In honor of the occasion, the hospital hosted the Expansion Project Steel Topping-Out Ceremony on June 5. The ceremony featured speeches from Michael Duncan, hospital president and CEO, Ken Innella senior vice president of LF Driscoll, and William W. Wylie, chairman of the CCH Board of Directors.
The topping-off comes nearly one year into the largest expansion in the hospital’s history. In all, 15 modern operating rooms are being added, as well as 13 Emergency Department rooms, 99 in-patient rooms, three state-of-the-art labs for catheterization and other procedures, as well as new areas for non-invasive cardiology and pre-admission testing, and a new main entrance. In building construction, a topping-off ceremony, one of the industry’s oldest customs is celebrated when the last beam is placed at the top of a building. It usually includes the placing of an evergreen tree and a U.S. flag upon the structure.
'"The community we serve relies on our mission-based approach to care, our reputation for quality, and our history of providing advanced clinical services," said Michael J. Duncan, President and CEO of Chester County Hospital.
"This expansion project, which is a testament to Chester County Hospital's partnership with Penn Medicine, highlights the hospital's and the Health System's commitments to expand lifesaving treatments and programs in the community. The venture also accommodates anticipated growth and will continue the hospital's movement towards world-class health care for all of Chester County, PA" Duncan added.
The pinnacle of the topping out ceremony takes place when the final piece of steel – painted and signed – is hoisted into place and secured by the ironworkers. At CCH, the beam was painted white and included the hospital’s “ICARE” values: “Innovation, Collaboration, Accountability, Respect and Excellence,” which were printed on the beam. The beam has been signed by hundreds of employees, and also includes the signatures of the tradesmen and hospital leadership.
The $268-million project broke ground just a few years after the completion of Lasko Tower, a $45-million addition that brought the hospital to 535,520-square feet and 249 inpatient beds.
This year’s March snowstorms created temporary setbacks in the project, says Michael Barber, Chester County Hospital’s chief operating officer, but the construction’s back on course for its original projected completion, in early 2020.
Beyond the erection of the steel framing, “we’ve also begun installing the wall framing and the mechanical and electrical utilities on the ground floor, in the support area for the procedural platform,” says Larry Bell, Senior Project Manager for the expansion and renovation.
Before a shovelful of dirt was moved to make way for the expansion, months of diligent planning had already been invested to ensure the hospital could continue to function with minimal interruption in spite of the massive effort being carried out around it.
When the hospital closed its main entrance last May, it began relying on a shuttle to transport visitors from the new parking garage to the new front door to ensure the smooth transport of patients and visitors from the parking areas to the new hospital entrance.
Integral to that planning process was the hospital’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, which was established in 2016 and consists of current and former patients, and their family members. The council meets monthly with representatives from the hospital’s staff and administration to discuss opportunities for enriching the visitor experience.
Distinguishing this project beyond its unparalleled size and scope is its environmental sensitivity. It was designed and is being built with an eye toward achieving LEED Silver certification. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a globally recognized symbol of excellence in green building. The components that are part of LEED-certified buildings ensures electricity cost savings, lower carbon emissions and healthier environments.
LEED credits are awarded by third-party technical reviewers. Based on the number of credits achieved, a project earns one of four LEED rating levels: LEED Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum.
“In terms of the construction,” Bell says, “we’re employing some measures to maximize the use of a range of recycled material, from the steel to ceiling tiles to the furniture.”
In accordance with the certification, a certain number of spaces in the new parking lot will be designated for staff who carpool. A large area of that lot will be pervious pavement, which will enable more rainwater to infiltrate the ground and, in turn, less to be shed by the campus. All of the lighting fixtures in the expansion and renovated Emergency Department will be LED and the plumbing fixtures, water-efficient.
The feature that likely will be most widely appreciated, though, is a large rooftop garden, the hospital’s second. Lasko Tower overlooks one, but the new garden will be built in view of many of the new inpatient rooms. Researchers from Penn’s Urban health Lab has found that access to green views, is associated with improved general mental health, reduced mental fatigue, and improved coping with stressful settings—potentially making a hospital garden the perfect prescription for families of patients who are ill or injured.
“So,” Bell says, “we’ll reduce rainwater run-off, and most importantly, provide nicer scenery and a better experience for our patients.”