Sandwiched In: Firm Relies on Resourcefulness to Meet Challenge of Remodeling a Single Floor of a Building
(Reprinted from the San Diego Daily Transcript, June 29, 2000)
Unlike building from the ground up, remodeling poses many challenges. In private homes, residents may be inconvenienced with a few hours without water and electricity or perhaps limited access to a portion of their home while the project is completed. But what happens when the remodeling is taking place inside a medical facility that must continue operations without interruption? That was the challenge taken on by the development firm that is remodeling the sixth floor of the Doheny Eye Institute on the campus of the University of Southern California (USC).
The Doheny Eye Institute was built as an eye hospital on the Health Sciences Campus of USC. At the time the building was built, patients recovering from cataract surgery required a several-day stay in the hospital. During construction of the building, new technology made cataract surgery possible as an outpatient procedure, changing the need for extensive recovery time. The sixth floor of the building that was to be used as patient recovery rooms was never completed while the other floors were used as surgery rooms and medical offices.
The rapid growth of the USC Medical School during the past few years has resulted in the need for additional office and clinic space on the Health Sciences Campus. The vacant floor in the Doheny Eye Institute was a perfect choice to be transformed to house physician offices as well as specialty and support services, including digital X-ray.
USC University Hospital contracted with Pacific Medical Buildings, a Del Mar-based development firm that specializes in medical office buildings, to design, construct and manage the improvement of the unoccupied 27,000 square foot floor. Pacific Medical Building will sign a 15-year lease with TENET Healthcare Corporation, which owns and operates USC University Hospital, to sublease the space to USC medical faculty upon completion. The $2.5 million project is scheduled to begin in July 2000, with a targeted completion date of November 2000.
“This project came with the understanding that there would be significant challenges,” said Robert A. Rosenthal, president and managing partner of Pacific Medical Buildings. “The Doheny project would take a lot of extra planning to ensure that we completed the work in a timely fashion without disturbing the residents or patients in the building.”
The first challenge the developer faced was space. The Doheny Eye Institute is located in a tight urban area, resulting in limited space for unloading and storage of building materials. “When developing a facility, we often have a parking lot or similar space to store the necessary materials. In our goal not to disturb the building occupants we had to find a way to keep the area clear of materials, both for convenience and aesthetic reasons,” said Rosenthal. “With accurate scheduling, we are arranging to have materials delivered just in time as they are needed to eliminate the need to store large amounts of building materials on site.”
The major obstacle Pacific Medical Buildings had to overcome in planning the remodeling of the facility was to limit the disturbance of building residents and visitors while they visit the interior of the facility. “Being on the sixth floor, we had issues with the elevators. We couldn’t tie up the elevators with our workers or materials and restrict patients from reaching their physicians in the building,” said Rosenthal. “Our solution is to remove several of the windows on the sixth floor and use a crane to hoist the materials into the remodeling area. This will minimize the elevator usage.”
As with any remodeling project, plumbing and electrical work can cause havoc for the rest of the building. With a medical facility, these services cannot be compromised for any period of time. “Certain work such as plumbing, electrical and cooling systems must be accomplished at night and on weekends when the building is closed. This will prevent any safety systems from being jeopardized during the hours of use,” said Rosenthal.
Despite the obstacles, Rosenthal says his firm looks forward to the challenges the Doheny project entails. “We are very excited to be able to work with USC to develop this project and hope it will be the first of many additional projects on the USC Health Sciences Campus,” said Rosenthal.
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