In St. Clair County, Alabama, just east of Birmingham, a group of community leaders had a vision to change the face of healthcare in their county. This wasn’t a small group. The St. Clair County Health Care Authority, St. Clair County Commission, City of Pell City, St. Clair County Economic Development Council and St. Vincent’s Health System all dreamed of replacing the more than 40-year-old St. Clair Regional Hospital with a state-of-the-art, 40-bed, 79,000 square foot facility. Keeping this many key stakeholders happy required ever-vigilant communication throughout the project. Yet it was just this continual communication, combined with the shared vision of a common goal that created a true spirit of partnership – a partnership that brought to life a facility that will benefit an entire community for generations.
The St. Clair County Health Care Authority, the hospital’s owner, presented us with three expectations: First, this ambitious endeavor had to be completed with a limited amount of funds and could not – under any circumstances – exceed the initial contract. Second, the hospital had to be delivered to the community on the scheduled date. And, third, the facility had to meet or exceed the standards set by St. Vincent’s Health Systems, the group that would be leasing the hospital. While the Health Care Authority owned the hospital, we worked directly on design and specifications with our day-to-day client, St. Vincent’s, where main priority was to create a facility that would allow it to provide the highest level of healthcare available to its patients. Balancing our two clients’ desires made for a unique and challenging project – and we wouldn’t be completely satisfied unless both clients were completely satisfied.
Knowing that absolutely no cost could be added to the project, we began working on day one with the design team and the owner to generate a Potential Cost Savings Plan to offset any unexpected cost items and prepare for change orders that could contribute to overall expense. As expected with any project, this one experienced unanticipated changes. However, by keeping budget top of mind with every decision and by incorporating many changes in the design phase, we were able to respond with solutions that did not increase the contract amount. Upon completion of the hospital (and to the delight of the county), the project realized a savings of over $400,000. With these savings, St. Vincent’s was able to reinvest back into the hospital and offer all of the design, departments and services it required to provide exceptional care to its patients. These items included an expanded ER, in-patient and outpatient surgical services and the latest in diagnostic technology, including a 64-slice CT scanner and MRI.
Meeting with the design team and owner early in the project also helped us to identify opportunities for innovation, particularly those using Lean principles. As an example, the team prefabricated bathroom counters and installed them as one piece, saving time and improving quality. We also used an extra bead of caulk at the edges of the window system. An extra bead of caulk may not seem like a major innovation, but this thin line of silicone allowed us to install the windows before work commenced on the exterior skin. It also provided a second line of defense against water infiltration. To ensure a watertight fit, we conducted a nozzle test on each of the windows. While we could have proceeded without that extra bead of caulk or without testing every window, we chose excellence over expediency. After all, with more than 70 years in the industry, we know that small details make significant differences.
Supporting the communities in which we work and live represents one of Hoar Construction’s most important values. This project gave us the opportunity to put this value into action. To make the hospital a reality, the citizens of St. Clair County voted for a tax increase – literally taxing themselves to fund the project. Recognizing the residents’ commitment, we developed a Local Participation Inclusion Plan (LPI) to ensure involvement by St. Clair County subcontractors and suppliers and to make sure money stayed in the county. As part of the LPI, we held open house meetings prior to breaking ground to explain the scope of the project and to identify opportunities for participation among subs and suppliers. We also divided some of the bid packages to allow smaller subcontractors to participate. Because rewarding the community for its efforts was the right thing to do, we not only committed to a minimum percentage of local participation – we also put a portion of our fee on the line if the commitment was not met. In the end, participation percentages exceeded the minimum amounts we committed. Over 92% of the cost of the project was supplied and performed by companies within a 40-mile radius of the hospital.
At Hoar Construction, we build every project with the end user in mind. However, the end user to us isn’t just the tenant who will be moving in when construction ends. It’s the tenant who will be moving in a decade from now. Or two decades from now. Or three. To that end, the team incorporated thoughtful planning, design and execution into St. Vincent’s St. Clair to ensure this hospital would be sustainable well into the future. These decisions included energy-efficient heating and cooling to lower operating costs and high-efficiency light fixtures and lamps to conserve energy.
Small rural communities across the country find themselves saddled with old hospitals that need to be replaced, the same situation St. Clair County faced just a few years back. The success of the new St. Vincent’s St. Clair can serve as a benchmark for these communities. In less than a year, the county went from having an antiquated hospital to a state-of-the-art facility. Today, St. Clair County citizens take great pride in the hospital and the steps they took to get it built, and St. Vincent’s is proud to be a part of the community and to provide the care its residents deserve. This hospital represents the positive change that a community can experience when groups united in a spirit of true partnership work together toward a common goal.