By Jeffrey C. Doepp, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic Public Affairs
NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Mid-Atlantic forward-deployed teams sent to provide support for “Whole-of-Nation” efforts in combating COVID-19, successfully wrapped up their work last week in Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic civilian and military members volunteered at the start of April to partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), providing architectural, engineering, and construction management services to convert hotels, dormitories, and arenas into Alternate Care Facilities (ACFs).
The goal was to expand medical capacity and care with the construction of ACFs, allowing state and local authorities to meet the acute needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Right out the gate, our NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic teams tackled the critical needs at hand, working alongside our U.S. Army Corps of Engineer counterparts on these ACFs,” said Capt. Rich Hayes, commanding officer of NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic. “Their selflessness, hard work, and devotion to duty has not gone unnoticed by the Command – the Navy – the Department of Defense – the Nation. I personally thank them all for a job well done!”
The Michigan team first supported the USACE Detroit District by providing engineering and quality assurance services for the TCF Convention Center in Detroit. Team members Lt. j.g. Jeffrey Lin, construction manager at Public Works Department (PWD) Newport, Rhode Island, Engineering Technician Sue Geer, and Construction Electrician Petty Officer 2nd Class Gregory Credle, first arrived April 4, the fourth day of the TCF construction. With the build already halfway complete, the team’s short time at TCF was crucial for adjusting to new roles, meeting new colleagues, and getting a feel for the construction pace.
The team moved on to the Suburban Collection Showplace (SCS) project in Novi, Michigan, which kicked off on the team's second day in the Detroit area. The team agilely handled, not only their assigned quality assurance roles but also included handling several contractor requests for information, and leading facility walkthroughs.
The team’s second week on the job of the SCS conversion was marked by a major scope change. Agilely addressing a new need to create a 250-bed facility, team members applied NAVFAC know-how to keep the project deadline in check. Lt. j.g. Iana Gontcharova, construction manager at PWD Pennsylvania and Construction Electrician Petty Officer 1st Class Arcenio Delgado arrived on site, beginning support that included redesigning the facility to suit the needs of the state. Gontcharova contributed substantial efforts to solving one of the most significant engineering challenges in the conversion of the convention center into a health care facility, earning her the nickname “HVAC Queen” (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning).
After turning the facility over to the state, the Michigan team wrapped up their work, April 20.
“Our work at the TCF Center and the work we did converting the Showplace into an ACF would not have been a success without multiple government agencies and contractors working together tirelessly every day, for weeks,” Lin said. “Although the facility’s first patients will be arriving shortly, I hope that it’s not used to its designed capacity. But if it is, it will save lives.”
ILLINOIS and WISCONSIN
In the Chicago District, the team engaged in defining contracts and construction oversight of three facilities in Blue Island, Elgin, and Melrose Park. These facilities were all shuttered hospitals or care centers in or around the Chicago metropolitan area that were returned to service in order to accept overflow from other hospitals in the Chicago area as ACFs.
Additionally, the team supported a project converting the Milwaukee State Fair Expo Center into a field hospital as well as provided an assessment at the Milwaukee County House of Corrections for possible conversion of a vacant facility into an ACF. The team supported these projects with a variety of services to include scope development, design and submittal reviews, construction management, and quality assurance oversight efforts. The below projects were delivered either on time or ahead of schedule, and in total, more than $15 million under budget.
· Blue Island MetroSouth Hospital - 350 beds were brought online for $14.3 million to serve non- and low-acute COVID patients. The work included specialized negative pressure patient units and medical gas capabilities that provide in-line oxygen directly to beds. The project finished two days ahead of its three-week schedule.
· Elgin old Sherman Medical Clinic - 274 beds for non-acute COVID patients were brought online for $18.3 million. The work included specialized negative pressure zones, backup power generation, and a revamped fire suppression system among other renovation pieces. The facility was nearly gutted inside to start and brought back online one day ahead of its three week schedule, and under budget. More than 36,000 man hours of work was completed without incident.
· Melrose Park Westlake Hospital - 437 beds were brought online for $16.3 million to serve non- and low-acute COVID patients. The work included specialized negative pressure patient units and medical gas capabilities that provide in-line oxygen directly to beds. The project was completed under budget.
· Milwaukee State Fair Expo Center - 530 beds for low-acute COVID patients were brought online for $14.9 million in just 10 days. The work included specialized in-line oxygen distribution systems, six megawatts of portable backup generation power capabilities, and the ability to remove everything in the future, without damage to the existing facility. The project was completed one day ahead of its 10 day schedule and was under budget. More than 20,000 man hours of work was completed without incident.
Team member Geoff Malia, senior design manager at PWD Great Lakes, Illinois, echoed Lin’s sentiments in hoping that none of these facilities would ever need to be used, but added that what has been done is that a critical variable has been taken off the table.
“We’ve written an insurance policy for our fellow Americans. Additional capacity in the form of nearly 5,000 bed spaces now exists for multiple levels of patient care throughout the region,” Malia said. “I have to commend USACE for their innovative contracting approach and the Prime Contractors for leaning forward so aggressively, working 24/7 with their subs to make all this happen. Each project was the epitome of a team effort in ways I’ve not seen on construction projects before. Never once was it about the name on the hard hat, the only thing that mattered was the flag on the back of it.”
The team wrapped up their work, April 26. All of NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic’s forward-deployed team members have traveled back to their permanent duty station locations and are now observing a 14-day Restriction of Movement (ROM) status.
NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic provides facilities engineering, public works and environmental products and services across an area of responsibility that spans from Georgia to Maine and as far west as Indiana. As an integral member of the Commander Navy Region Mid-Atlantic team, NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic provides leadership through the Regional Engineer organization to ensure the region's facilities and infrastructure are managed efficiently and effectively.