Providing healthy, safe environments for employees and occupants in healthcare facilities is especially important in hurricane-prone regions. The Ashley River Tower at the Medical University of South Carolina touts the honor of being the first free-standing healthcare facility in the United States subject to both the latest seismic and hurricane construction codes. The area where it was built in Charleston is located in the Atlantic hurricane corridor, an area with earthquake activity and subsiding soil conditions: conditions extremely problematic for builders. Storms cause flooding and delays in construction; flooding and humidity cause mold; mold and rot can halt a work schedule. The bottom line is time and money wasted, if mold infestation occurs at the site.
The construction and design team responsible for the Ashley River Tower hospital were well aware of the fact that Charleston is an extremely risky locale for construction due to the hot, humid climate that is ripe for mold. In addition, all MUSC buildings have to withstand hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and high-risk soil conditions, so construction quality and long-term mold resistance are especially important. For the Ashley River Tower hospital, MUSC called for a 50- to 75-year building life-span, significantly more longevity than the usual 40-year average.
It's really very simple: traditional drywall is covered with paper. Paper is a potential food source for mold. Due to the risks associated with building in a moisture- and hurricane-prone area, the project team decided early on in the design process that we wanted to go paperless. It was also noted that using gypsum products with fiberglass mats would accelerate the construction schedule, thus making up for any cost differential of using less costly, paper building products many times over.
No small project
The MUSC Ashley River Tower project involved replacing a 50-year-old teaching hospital with a new $190 million, 641,000-sq.-ft. hospital for cardiovascular and digestive disease services. Ashley River Tower included the development of a four-story diagnostic and treatment building, a seven story patient tower and a garden atrium that connects the two structures. The L-shaped diagnostic and treatment building holds all major technology spaces including surgery, radiology, interventional cardiology and associated preparatory and recovery areas. The hospitality tower contains 156 private patient rooms with views of the Ashley River and downtown Charleston.
As expected, the construction team faced some inclement weather during construction. “We saw severe weather from an off-shore hurricane,” says Shamrock Thompson, area superintendent for the Patient Tower building. “There were heavy rains driven by high winds, a tremendous amount of water blowing in, and repeated flooding on the site.” Fortunately, the team made the decision early in the planning process to combat the effects of storms on building by using paperless products. Going paperless was the right choice for MUSC for several reasons.
“Hanging the drywall earlier proved to be highly beneficial because other trades were able to start work sooner. Accelerated subcontractor schedules included plumbing, electrical and HVAC, plus massive amounts of wall-related details like interior glazing, corner guards and case work,” said Mac McClinton, project manager.
Consequently, the torrential rain had no effect on the construction site. Even after eight months of exposure to the elements, the paperless faced panels looked like the day they were put up.
Another plus for this technology is that the paperless interior drywall is certified by the Greenguard Environmental Institute, meaning it emits low quantities of volatile organic compounds, thus improving indoor air quality. Any developer concerned about the well-being of his building's primary users and occupants, such as in hospitals, recognizes the importance of meeting high indoor air quality standards.
On time and on budget
The construction team's strategy of building paperless met the completion deadline, and in turn met the need for increased capacity fast to relieve crowding in existing facilities. Early completion also provided the university with additional cash-flow at a crucial time. Likewise, moving out of the construction loan phase sooner would enable MUSC to reap massive savings in interest payments. Since a compressed schedule was feasible, it was a win-win operation for the construction team and the hospital.
Hanging the drywall earlier had a huge ripple effect because other trades were able to start work sooner. Using paperless drywall for these pre-rock operations reduced the risk of having to perform potentially expensive post-dry-in remediation. In addition to the confidence in knowing the risk of mold growth would be reduced, the construction schedule was abbreviated, producing further savings.
Contractors hung 675,000 sq. ft. of paperless drywall during rainy weather with almost no replacement, which is unheard of at this scale of construction. These products combine a uniquely formulated, moisture-resistant gypsum core with fiberglass mats embedded on both faces.
Paperless inside and out
Long-term owners expecting high occupancy such as healthcare facilities see the benefit of going paperless inside their buildings, but MUSC chose paperless exterior sheathing for the outer building shell as well. Since this MUSC hospital project was managed as a complex set of interconnected micro-projects to speed construction, flexibility when performing exterior skin work was a definite benefit.
In all, the fiberglass mat gypsum products used reduced remediation due to moisture, saved MUSC construction hours and interest payments by shortening the construction schedule. HBI