At the height of the Coronavirus outbreak in New Jersey, Archstone Builders converted a 110,000 sq. ft. semi-vacant medical office building into a 280-bed COVID-19 dedicated hospital in just 13 days.
The Army Corps of Engineers tapped Archstone as general contractor because of the company’s renovation and building conversion experience, according to Joe Moran, Archstone director of construction. But he adds there were risks of the unknown involved: “The building was 50 years old, so it was like opening Pandora’s box.”
Staffing was the first challenge, but thanks to long-standing relationships with the trades and subcontractors, Archstone was able to mobilize 300 workers to the jobsite by the next day, says Moran. They worked around-the-clock on 12-hour shifts.
“We instituted a real-time design-build process, getting on-the-spot approvals from the client, hospital CEO, and Health Department and government officials, with briefings three times a day to review status and issues,” says Moran. Tetra Tech, Cosentini Associates and JBA partnered on the job.
The five-story building needed new plumbing, electrical, HVAC, emergency power and wireless communication systems. Four days before hand-over, the fire inspection revealed the fire alarm system needed to be replaced, and it was re-designed, ordered and installed in the four-day timeframe, says Moran.
With logistics disrupted in the Coronavirus shutdown, they sourced exhaust fans in Ohio and flew them in so they could be lifted by crane to the rooftop, Moran explains. The building generator and transfer switches were delivered after a two-day-straight drive. New lighting, flooring and fixture installation required manpower.
“I enjoyed the challenge of not knowing what was ahead of me every day on this job,” says Moran. “We were not going to fail.”
The Archstone team accomplished their goal on time, and the new facility at East Orange General Hospital was opened by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy with television news coverage. It is the only permanent COVID-19 hospital in the state. None of the workers on the jobsite contracted the virus.