By Robert P. Mader
Of Contractor's Staff
ROGERS, ARK. — Construction is booming here, with companies such as Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods and Hunt Trucking expanding the area's infrastructure. While positive for the economy, commercial constructors are feeling the pinch when it comes to the availability of skilled labor. Add to this the challenge of tighter building schedules and builders are faced with a real dilemma.
Midwest Mechanical Contractors, Overland Park, Kan., is about halfway through building Mercy Health System's six-story, 134-bed, full-service, 331,000-sq.-ft. replacement hospital located on 70 acres here. To help work around the tight labor market on the fast-track job, Midwest has used a vendor's piping design and shipping services.
Midwest has the full mechanical contract on the job, including medical gas piping and plumbing, Project Manager Dennis Miller said.
The job is comprised of two chillers, two steam boilers, six hydronic heating boilers, four big water heaters, shell-andtube heat exchangers and many pumps. Because of all the piping involved, Midwest used Victaulic Construction Piping Services, which designs and lays out the pipe, produces an estimate, and bags, tags and ships all the components for installation.
The hospital has mechanical rooms on the ground floor and first floor, Miller explained, with the ground floor housing two Trane 800-ton chillers and a Trane air handler. Trane subsidiary Air Systems is building the air handlers in Fort Smith, Ark. All pumps on the job are from Armstrong, and Marley supplied the two cooling towers.
The first-floor mechanical room contains two 350-HP dual-fuel steam boilers from Hurst Boiler, deaerators, six Aerco gas-fired hydronic-heating boilers, another air handler and shell-and-tube heat exchangers. It's not out of the question that the hospital could get its gas shut off in the middle of winter, Miller said, so the steam boilers can switch to oil and go through the heat exchangers to provide space heat.
Two large split air handlers — split to work around columns — are located in mechanical rooms on the third and the top floor. Northwest Arkansas Sheet Metal is installing the ductwork that supplies 500 VAV boxes.
There's space on the job for a third chiller and a third cooling tower, Miller noted, because the building has been designed with expansion in mind. The hospital is planning to build a 90,000-sq.-ft. medical office building next door, although Miller's not sure how that could be crewed.
Labor is so hard to find in Rogers that a contractor has to work five 10-hour days and pay a premium wage in order to get workers, Miller said.
That's one of the reasons why Midwest Vice President Glenn Shain credits Victaulic Construction Piping Services with helping the contractor control variable labor costs and meet an aggressive schedule.
Medical gas is located in the groundfloor central plant that contains a medical air compressor and vacuum pumps. Nitrogen, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide tanks are in the ground-floor room, while bulk oxygen is stored outside adjacent to the cooling towers.
The medical gas piping feeds through a mechanical tunnel into the hospital and up to patient rooms. An evacuation pump for the operating rooms is located in the third-floor mechanical room.
All the steel piping is connected with Victaulic grooved couplings down to 3 in. Miller used Victaulic copper couplings for the plumbing system down to 21/2 in. Everything smaller is joined with the Ridgid/Viega ProPress system, except for the medical gas piping.
Midwest installed all the domestic plumbing, waste and vent and storm drainage. Two Aerco high-capacity water heaters in the ground-floor mechanical room are set to 140°F for the kitchen and laundry. Two more Aerco water heaters in the third-floor mechanical room are set to 120°F.
The state of Arkansas requires clean plumbing systems in hospitals and contractors must send water samples to a state lab in Little Rock, Miller noted.
A booster pump in the third-floor mechanical room supplies water to the upper floors.
Zurn supplied all the fixtures and brass, except for Bradley lavatory/water closet combination units installed in intensive care rooms.
Midwest is installing Zurn handwashing stations for the nurses in all patient rooms.