BJC Healthcare awarded Kaiser Electric responsibility for all power distribution and backup power systems, lighting, security, voice/data, infant abduction, nurse call, patient monitoring and fire alarm systems for its new St. Louis healthcare center. Kaiser Electric was involved in the design/assist phase of the project for six months before any work started.

A new hospital, built from the ground up, made its debut in February 2007 in O’Fallon, Mo. It has been almost two decades since a new hospital has been built in the St. Louis metropolitan area and the first such healthcare facility since Barnes-Jewish and Christian hospitals merged to become BJC HealthCare in the early 1990s. The $76 million, 180,000-square-foot, 72-bed acute care facility and medical office building complex named BJC Progress West HealthCare Center has five levels, sits on 48 acres and was created to serve the growing population in the southern part of the county. The facility includes parking for 365 vehicles; an emergency department; labs; a pharmacy; diagnostic and treatment rooms; private inpatient rooms; imaging units; labor, delivery and surgery departments; and support services. Designed to accommodate future expansion, the goal was to create a facility that generates improved workflow and cost efficiencies in an optimal healing environment.

Paric Corp. of O’Fallon, and Barton Malow Co., Southfield, Mich., created a joint venture for the project. The owner chose the two companies as the general contractors. Together, they issued a competitive design/assist request for proposal in late 2004 to seven prequalified electrical contractors. On the list of bidders was Kaiser Electric Inc., headquartered in Fenton, Mo.

“We were on the short list because of our extensive healthcare and design/assist experience, along with our previous working relationship with Paric Corp.,” said George Azzanni, president, Kaiser Electric Inc. The two companies have partnered for close to 15 years on at least 25 projects in the commercial market.

“We’d never worked with Paric on a healthcare project, but they knew of our long-standing involvement in that market,” Azzanni said.

As part of the contract award process, Kaiser Electric had to provide an extensive demonstration of its capabilities, knowledge of the scope of work, value engineering, an understanding of the requirements of constructing a new hospital and the ability to complete the drawings and engineer the required systems.

“The contract was awarded to Kaiser in early 2005 based on its competitive and complete proposal, its design/assist experience and because the company had the healthcare market expertise the owner required,” said Carl Eisenhauer, senior project manager for Paric Corp. The design/assist phase of the project began soon after the contract award.

Together, Kaiser Electric and KJWW Engineering Consultants, Rock Island, Ill., determined which changes could be made to the original drawings to improve the project’s construction parameters.

“Within the first week of being awarded the contract, we were working closely with KJWW’s representative, Rich Larson, to review the entire project, from utility service to lighting fixtures,” said Mike Compton, manager of preconstruction.

In addition, Kaiser Electric determined which suppliers from the preapproved list had the products that would best fit the owner’s requirements and provide the necessary levels of quality and service. KJWW incorporated Kaiser Electric’s suggestions and the team spent the next six months completing the entire set of documents and finalizing most of the design, although some of the systems required further refinement during construction.

Turnkey system

Work began in April 2005 on the $6.9 million electrical and low-voltage installation and was finished on time by January 2007.

The utility’s overhead lines brought power into exterior, 15,000-volt switchgear that Kaiser Electric installed. From the pad-mounted transformer and unit substation, power was routed through distribution transformers to 80 subpanels within the hospital and central plant and then to outlets, receptacles, lighting fixtures and to the mechanical and medical equipment. Backup power consists of one 850-kW emergency, diesel-powered generator and associated transfer switches and equipment.

“The system is designed to handle Code-required life safety and emergency systems within the hospital to ensure power in case of an outage,” said Dennis Thompson, general foreman for the electrical installation.

Lighting for the project required close to 100 different types and styles of energy-efficient fixtures, ranging from recessed, indirect and fluorescent to decorative pendants and wall sconces. The architect, Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum Inc. (HOK), St. Louis; Kaiser Electric; and KJWW worked together to determine the most efficient lighting fixtures and lamp sources for the project to reduce energy consumption and cost.

Security and life safety systems were an integral part of the hospital project. For BJC, Kaiser installed about a dozen card access readers for entry doors and for secured, nonpublic areas, as well as 20 closed-circuit television surveillance cameras for building entrances, lobbies and hallways.

“The devices were wired with standard copper cabling and terminated at the main security control room,” said Bruce Bellinger, the project’s low-voltage general foreman. Also, part of the security system is the hospital’s radio frequency identification infant abduction system, which consists of a series of antennas mounted on the ceiling of the maternity ward that pick up the RF signal emitted from the infant’s identification band.

“Any signal picked up by an antenna within several feet of the door sets off alarms and locks the doors,” Bellinger said.

The fire alarm system installed by Kaiser Electric is fully addressable and consists of a number of devices, which were terminated at the main fire alarm control panel, including pull stations, smoke and duct detectors, loudspeakers and strobes. The system was complicated by the need to comply with the 2003 edition of the International Building Code, which had been adopted by the local inspection authorities and requires multiple fire and smoke dampers to be integrated within the fire alarm system.

“It required extensive engineering to ensure that the dampers were programmed to operate as required by the local fire marshal,” said Steve Giacin, project manager.

In addition, Kaiser Electric was responsible for installing the voice/data system.

“In partnership with KJWW, Category 6 data cabling was used to wire more than 400 outlets for telephone service and the integrated computer network,” Bellinger said.

From the main distribution frame, fiber optic backbone cabling was run to four intermediate distribution frames and horizontal copper cabling to the individual outlets.

Scheduling matters

Because the project was design/assist and entailed new construction on a fast-track schedule, the specification was constantly being refined to ensure the hospital would have the best possible product.

“To ensure the design and subsequent construction were proceeding on schedule, weekly design meetings were held by the entire team, including the architect, engineer and owner’s representatives, and operational meetings with field staff and supervisors ensured all changes were incorporated efficiently and correctly,” said Roger Messmer, project director.

Staying on schedule is particularly important on a hospital project as large and complex as this one. BJC was hiring staff for the facility up to four months ahead of the scheduled opening, so it had to meet construction deadlines to coincide with staff training. However, with responsibility for all of the systems, Kaiser Electric was in an excellent position to control the design, installation, testing and integration to ensure the completion before important deadlines.

“Kaiser was constantly examining construction issues or concerns and looking for resolutions. The company was dedicated to meeting scheduled commitments and ensuring a successful completion for the owner,” Eisenhauer said.

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR and SECURITY + LIFE SAFETY SYSTEMS. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 or by e-mail at