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2016-04-22 / News

Meeting the rules and requirements of healthcare construction

By r. brock pronko
Regional Business Analyst


Magent Magent As the recession began to wind down and more patients came into the healthcare market as a result of the Affordable Care Act, hospitals and health systems began to focus on population health by moving care delivery to the most appropriate and lowest-cost setting. To accommodate these new care delivery system needs, existing hospital buildings and outpatient facilities needed renovations and upgrades.

In December 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued new requirements to its “Guidelines for Design and Construction of Hospitals and Outpatient Facilities.” The requirements for existing hospitals and outpatient treatment facilities are particularly stringent and require special expertise.

Alexander Building and Construction, which was founded in 1928 and has offices in Harrisburg and State College, specializes in the construction and renovation of healthcare facilities. Alexander is part of the Butz Family of Companies, headquartered in Allentown, Pa.


UPMC Logan Medical Center 
Photos courtesy of Alexander Building Construction UPMC Logan Medical Center Photos courtesy of Alexander Building Construction “The majority of our healthcare construction work is done on a campus where there’s already an operating hospital, so the primary concern during the project isn’t the construction, but what we’re required to do to protect the health of patients coming in to receive treatment during the construction,” said Chris Magent, PhD, LEED AP, general manager of Alexander’s State College office, and business development and strategic initiatives director for the Butz Family of Companies.

“For example, when we did a $2 million renovation project to accommodate a new modulated linear accelerator for the cancer center we constructed at the Mount Nittany Medical Center, we built a temporary corridor through the middle of our construction site so patients could be wheeled through it.


Mount Nittany Medical Center cancer center Mount Nittany Medical Center cancer center “Because the walls of the corridor weren’t bare wood, like you often see at construction sites, but were in finished condition, the patients had no idea construction was going on the other side of the wall.”

The space inside the temporary corridors must meet health department requirements such as proper air pressure and air flow to insure there is no transmission of airborne contaminants outside the walls.

“Due to the strict planning needed for hospital construction, at one hospital we created a better environment than they originally had, and some of the structures we built for construction purposes became part of the hospital’s permanent infrastructure,” said Magent.

Alexander has performed other projects for Mount Nittany including an East Wing intensive care unit, called an “overbuild” because it was built over the existing hospital, and a major addition and renovation to the hospital’s 56,000 square-foot emergency department.


Geisinger Grays Woods phase II Geisinger Grays Woods phase II “We most recently finished a new perioperative space for Mount Nittany, which was another overbuild, and now we’re doing a boiler plant project for them, and we’re getting ready to start on their new parking garage,” said Magent.

Alexander is also constructing an 80,000-square-foot medical office building for UPMC Altoona in Hollidaysburg. It also built both wings of the Geisinger - Gray’s Woods medical center in Port Matilda.

Besides stringent safety requirements, companies that build or renovate healthcare facilities must deal with more complex mechanical, electrical and plumbing features than those found in commercial buildings that house retail stores or offices. These include oxygen tanks, patient alarms and redundant power systems in case of a power blackout. To accommodate these requirements, Alexander formed its MEP Group (Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing).


Mount Nittany Medical Center East Wing Mount Nittany Medical Center East Wing “In addition to those areas of expertise, our construction management group offers specialized healthcare and higher education preconstruction services, which includes estimating, scheduling, construction logistics planning, and virtual design and construction services, which are extremely critical in healthcare projects.” .

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