By Wallace F. “Wally” Workmaster, Jr.
Associate, Jaros Baum & Bolles, NY

At the end of March 2020, BCxA corporate member Jaros Baum & Bolles (JB&B) was contacted by Turner Construction Company (TCCO) and asked to join a team for the design-build construction of a 1,000+ bed alternate care facility at Stony Brook University under the direction of the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

TCCO assembled a team of designers and contractors that are considered to be leaders of medical construction in the greater New York area, with a clear mission to complete the project from design to turnover in 21 days and based on a standard ACE RFP.

Within the project RFP were requirements for testing and commissioning that were incorporated into the project in conjunction with TCCO Quality Assurance and JB&B Field Commissioning Services.

Given the time constraints, scope limitations, and fast paced construction, inclusion of commissioning posed a challenge to all the project partners. Here’s the project description, commissioning scope and delivery process:

Project Outline:

  • Army Corps of Engineers Alternate Care Facility
  • Design/Build, Turner Construction
  • 1,028 bed, 5-tent facility built on an open field on campus grounds
  • 5 total climate-controlled tents with varying bed counts, nursing stations, clean and soiled storage/utility rooms, overhead lighting, restrooms, showers, nursing stations, food service, and a computer station, powered by multiple generators.
  • Testing Scope: HVAC, Electrical, Plumbing, Fire Protection. Fire Alarm and Nurse Call contractor certified
  • Construction Duration 28 days including time allowance for change of scope (adding COVID-19 positive conversion of 2 tents with a total of 546 beds)

Commissioning Scope:

  • 44 Air Handlers
  • 19 Exhaust Fans (Toilet, Spill, Soiled Holding)
  • 1 Domestic Water Triplex Booster Pump System
  • 1 Diesel Engine Powered Fire Pump
  • 10 Electric Domestic Water Heaters
  • 10 Mobile Generators
  • 10 Automatic Transfer Switches
  • 5 Distribution Switchboards with Kirk Key (safety interlock) Operation

The teamwork and dedication to the project mission created an open and collaborative exchange of ideas and an approach that was remarkable to all involved. Equipment was manufactured and delivered on site at lightning speed which created the need for thorough inspection prior to start up. Our approach had to be consistent with commissioning guidelines, but some steps needed to be combined or eliminated because of the pace of construction.

For example, manufacturers’ representative startup reports were, in many cases, accepted in lieu of pre-functional checklists. BMS scope limitations caused limited functional performance testing that would generally be included in a more robust construction project. Commissioning specifications normally created by the CxP were omitted because the ACE RFP already included guidelines and a deliverables requirement. Simultaneous testing of different assets created a manpower challenge of coordinating contractors, manufacturer, and commissioning representatives (often on the fly!).

Making things even more challenging, weather played a significant role in the ability to truly test the capacity and capabilities of the HVAC Air Handlers. To say the least, temperatures in the Northeast during April are not conducive to testing cooling capacity and cycling of air-cooled DX systems! Heavy winds and rain led to periodic construction interruptions because of safety factors on the site (remember these were giant tents with MEP assets located on the outside perimeter of each tent). This condensed the construction schedule and consequently functional testing. Through the dedication and persistence of the entire project team all systems and assets were brought on line and successfully commissioned.

At the end of the day, all parties involved truly put personalities and egos aside to complete a temporary self-sufficient facility that operates without any connection to local electrical power, sewage, or domestic/fire protection water utility tie ins. Only fire alarm and patient care communications systems were hardwire-connected through the university to the outside world. A full turnover package of operations guidelines and testing documents were submitted to the Army Corps and FEMA with a five-day extension that allowed for Stony Brook Medical Center requests and inclusion of COVID-19 bed conversions. Truly an amazing accomplishment!