Born of Necessity

When the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center and Crittenton Hospital Medical Center teamed to provide exceptional cancer care, they wanted the facility to have the look and feel of a welcoming ski lodge to help patients relax. That comfortable environment, designed by architect Albert Kahn Associates, contributed to the project being honored by a 2010 Community Impact Award by Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW). The completed project is stunning, but there were challenges to overcome during construction.

A delayed construction start meant winter conditions that were not initially anticipated. The original slab-on-grade pour, planned for December, was pushed into January. Frigid temperatures meant the team had to thaw the frozen ground before the pour. An innovative solution was needed to keep the project on schedule and within budget.

Many ground-thaw methods are cost prohibitive. Barton Malow had used a less-expensive approach on a previous project. It involved laying flexible piping (connected to a portable boiler system) on the ground and covering it with thermal blankets. Then, heated glycol was pumped through the closed loop boiler / piping system.

Although this method worked well on the earlier project, it did not work quickly on this job until project superintendent Jeff Sohn decided to wet the piping and ground surface. The water was an effective heat-transfer medium from the piping to the ground surface which reduced the thaw time significantly. Water would not have been a good solution with other soil types, but Jeff and the team knew the site was sandy and dry. Adding water did not create a huge mud hole.

This creative solution helped keep the project on track. According to project manager Rich Wimble, “Innovation is born of necessity,” in healthcare construction as in life.