Overcoming Challenges

How the M.T. Mustain Center sped through hurdles

Asingle page diagrammed with 55 boxes tells a behind-the-scenes story about the launch of the M.T. Mustian Center at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH).

Each small box on the chart features deceptively simple labels like “Demolish Offices,” “Save the Dove,” “Relocate chilled water on roof of laundry,” but each one represents a challenge in the creation of the 340,000-square-foot, $275 million hospital complex.

“There are a lot of memories in those boxes,” said Brian Smith, Senior Project Manager for Birmingham-based contractor Brasfield & Gorrie, which built the hospital’s new Central Energy Plant as well as the M.T. Mustian Center.

“These were all the things that needed to happen for us to be able to start construction.”

Work on these “enabling projects” began in 2015 after years of planning the new addition and with the help of the Gresham Smith architectural firm.

“The hardest part of this job was getting to the starting point,” said Laurie L. Dozier, a consultant for TMH on the M.T. Mustian Center. And then, “The greatest obstacles were before we put the foundation in.”

He won’t get any argument from the project’s engineer, Henry Hanson.

“My opinion is that the biggest challenges happened in the beginning,” he said, noting that many vital elements of the hospital’s infrastructure were located on the site of the future M.T. Mustian Center.

“The addition was, in effect, placed in our back door where we received all our materials, where everything took place, where the oxygen tanks were, where the things were that you had to have to run the hospital,” said Hanson.

“All those things are fairly big in nature. Moving people — we move people quite a bit, so that wasn’t as hard — but keeping yourself in business while you’re moving the things that keep you in business gets to be tough.”

The employees who had to be relocated included, “Human Resources, Information Technology functions, education functions — all those had to find a home” so those three buildings could be torn down, he said.

The ambulance ramp also had to be demolished. “Ambulances needed a new way to get into the building, so that was another project that had to happen in conjunction with emergency services,” said Katie Hill, Project Manager for the M.T. Mustian Center.

The box on the chart marked, “Save the Dove,” referred to a special project on the construction site. A 7,000-pound concrete dove encased in bricks was originally part of a wall for Holy Comforter Episcopal Church.

Tallahassee’s Childers Construction Company, subcontractors on the M.T. Mustian Center, worked diligently to remove the dove intact and relocate it to Holy Comforter’s new location, said Smith.

“You wouldn’t believe the planning that went into how the dove could be saved,” he said.

A less emotional but also dramatic challenge was moving the 50,000-pound cooling tower that supplied cold water for air-conditioning in the hospital. “It was on top of the existing building,” said Smith.

“We had to find a place where we could physically drop it through and then put it on huge steel stilts to drop it down.

“There was a lot of gymnastics in that one,” said Smith, who had as many as 500 employees working on the construction site at one point.

Dealing with new technology and lots of equipment also presented challenges.

“Probably the most complicated thing to build in the hospital is the OR (operating room), and we had 32 of them,” said Smith. “There’s a lot of coordination that goes into all the equipment that’s in the OR.”

Having an off-site mock-up of the intensive care unit rooms and operating rooms helped to avoid problems, down to where to place the outlets, he said.

“If you don’t like where the outlets go, you’re not changing it five times but 72 times (for 72 intensive care beds). Knowing where things were going was very important.”

Smith called the M.T. Mustian Center “the most challenging project I’ve ever been involved with.” He also called it one of the “most rewarding.”

“We met every challenge,” he said.

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