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Behind the Build: How Brasfield & Gorrie Remains a Leader in Healthcare Construction

Healthcare construction is among the most challenging sectors of the building industry. The field has no shortage of challenges. In fact, if you were looking for an industry more riddled with red tape and regulations, you’d be hard-pressed to find it. All decisions ultimately need to put patients first and to manage the immense quantity of data poses continuous hurdles for building teams.

Nevertheless, perhaps no other sector of the building industry has a more significant impact on people’s well-being. That’s why, when called in to complete a one-million-square-foot expansion for the Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie knew they had to get it right.

Learn how they are finding success within the sector and on this groundbreaking project by watching our latest video featured in this week’s Behind the Build:

Healthcare Construction: Major Pressure and Massive Amounts of Data

When the general contractor started working on the Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, they realized there was a lot on the line: “This project is the largest volume healthcare project ever built in the state of Georgia,” says Dave Hajjar, Operations Manager for Brasfield & Gorrie.

“In a healthcare construction project, there is a massive amount of data. Our sets of documents are double or triple the amount of information that you may have on a commercial project.”

The plan’s final inception involves more than 400 patient rooms and a budget of $603 million, a marquee project both for the city of Atlanta and for Piedmont, whose flagship campus resides in Midtown.

The challenges, too, are numerous. The hospital will continue to operate through the entire build, necessitating special attention to air pressure, medical gas mix, infectious disease control and general comfort.

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Understanding the range of complexities involved in this project, Brasfield & Gorrie knew they needed a software platform to collect, administer and manage the data and information that underlies their everyday communications and decision-making.

“Brasfield & Gorrie has always traditionally tried to push that homegrown and organic innovation among our project managers,” says Hajjar. “The software tools that we’re using in the industry are a great avenue for us to continue to push the envelope forward.”

Choosing the Right Solution to Overcome the Complexities of Healthcare Construction

In addition to the incredible amounts of data the company needed to manage on the project, Brasfield & Gorrie needed to consider the following when choosing the right technology.

Mass Coordination of Multiple Trades and Stakeholders

Coordinating the workers, decision-makers, stakeholders and the work itself is no easy feat.

“In a healthcare environment, the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are very extensive,” explains Hajjar.

“Between 30-40% of the cost of your building is up above ceilings or down in the energy plant, totally inaccessible or unapparent to a patient.”

“With drywall, in particular, we need to work with just about every other trade out there,” adds James Barnes, Project Manager for McElroy Specialty Interiors, a commercial drywall outfit also based in Atlanta. “From the electricians to the plumbing to the mechanical side of things, our work is affected by all those other trades.”

Without good communication, this tangled web can easily go awry. That’s why it’s so important to maintain a high-quality, cutting-edge software to reflect real-time changes and decision-making, as well as enable topnotch communication.

Patient-First Approach

As mentioned above, a hospital’s primary duty is to the patients’ well-being–even in the midst of an expansion dedicated to just that. Impacting their health during the build in the interest of greater outcomes later is like borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. The Brasfield & Gorrie team knew from the outset they’d do everything to avoid such an approach.

“Working in healthcare and hospitals, you can’t do anything to endanger the safety of the patients or your visitors, and that is really the top priority, beyond anything,” says Barnes.

Again, the basics like air pressure and quality are essential. “We have to make sure we’re not putting patients at risk of infection or complicating any illnesses that they might already have,” points out Rachel Shingleton, Assistant Project Manager for Brasfield & Gorrie.

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Patient health isn’t the only thing that suffers when you don’t pay attention to these factors, either. Codes and regulations outline specific standards and companies and hospitals that don’t meet them are in danger of fines or worse.

Lack of Facility Data

Connecting one highly regulated building to another newer building is kind of like docking a shuttle at a space station. If every angle isn’t aligned, if every system doesn’t hook seamlessly into its counterpart on the other side, problems arise.

The difference between NASA and the healthcare construction industry? Space programs house way more detailed documentation on older technology and structures.

“One of the challenges we have is we don’t have great information on those existing buildings,” says Jason Cash, Senior Construction Program Manager for Piedmont Healthcare. The result is that sometimes, “it’s very hard for us to connect the two buildings together.”

But with the right technology, capturing and accessing the immense amount of facility data needed in building or renovating a medical facility becomes second nature. In turn, facility teams can better manage the lifecycle of their asset and future builds will benefit from the detailed documentation.

Why PlanGrid Met the Mark for Brasfield & Gorrie

For Brasfield & Gorrie, the Piedmont Atlanta expansion translates to nearly $800,000 of work daily. That’s an enormous amount of resources at stake each and every hour of the day. Ultimately, the company chose PlanGrid to help manage data and changes in the field.

“Being able to capture all that progress is key,” says Hajjar. “Where I think PlanGrid excels and is, in fact, the No. 1 product, is in the document-sharing and field-viewing of document control. With that comes a lot of the associated submittals and RFIs, and communicating all of that information up and down the chain. There are a lot of software products out there that try to do a lot of things, but they don’t do anything very well. PlanGrid is different.”

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The rest of the team agrees. Shingleton recalls her internship days, switching from paper one year to PlanGrid the next, relieving a huge amount of work and confusion for her.

While healthcare construction will always be complicated, innovations like PlanGrid can be part of the solution to manage that complexity.

“If PlanGrid vanished it would make my job a lot harder,” concurs Wes Murrell, Senior Superintendent for Brasfield & Gorrie. “We would waste a lot of paper, a lot of email, a lot of time, distributing the information anytime someone needs it.”

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