Affiliated with Emory University School of medicine and Emory University Hospital, Emory Healthcare in Atlanta boasts revenues in excess of $1 billion and a staff of some 8,400. It is one of the nation's leading healthcare systems and the largest in Georgia.

Since 1915, Emory University has been at the forefront of medical knowledge and research, pioneering many of the procedures that have changed the face of medical history. As part of that heritage, Emory Healthcare was established to provide improved access to the physicians, resources and facilities that have grown with it through the years.

One of Emory Healthcare's latest additions is the Emory Orthopaedic and Spine Center, designed to bring all the aspects of diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation together in one location, with state-of-the-art equipment and easy access for patients. Services offered by the center include hand, foot and ankle surgery; total joint replacement; orthopedic oncology; geriatric and pediatric orthopedics; rehabilitation; sports and occupational medicine; physical therapy; and radiology and diagnostic imaging services.

The center occupies a free-standing, five-story, 83,000-square-foot facility originally built in 1969. Doctors' offices and examination rooms occupy the first three floors, while the X-ray, MRI and CT scan equipment is on the fourth floor. The fifth floor contains the operating, recovery and presurgical rooms.

“Because of the building's age, 95 percent of the electrical wiring and systems had to be removed, although some of the core wiring for the elevator lobbies, two of the passenger elevators and the parking lot lighting remained,” said Jerry Hayes, president of United Electric Co. Inc., Marietta, Ga., the lead electrical contractor on the project.

Months before renovation began in July 2003, the general contractor, Atlanta-based Malone Construction Co., approached United Electric to price the low-voltage and traditional electrical portions of the project.

“We have been working with Malone Construction for about 15 years and have performed a number of large renovation projects with the company in healthcare facilities of similar size,” said Hayes.

Planned partnership

According to Jeff Stratton, senior project manager at Malone Construction, Emory Healthcare requested that the general contractor act as a partner on the design team, so they turned to United Electric to engineer and plan the specifications within the stated budget.

“We knew from our long-standing relationship that United would present the most creative ideas and value engineering suggestions,” said Stratton.

Emory Healthcare accepted the bid the team prepared, and United was ultimately awarded the $1.4 million electrical portions of the $6 million contract.

“We won this award based not only on our existing relationship with Malone and the preconstruction bid services that we provided, but because the entire construction team offered Emory the best value,” Hayes said.

With an average of 15 electricians and a peak of 33, United began work on converting the former office building into a modern, secure healthcare facility. United Electric installed an addressable fire alarm system, which consisted of horn/strobes throughout all of the public areas and strobes in the patient areas, exam rooms and lavatories. The life safety system also included ceiling-mounted smoke and duct detectors throughout the facility and pull stations at all exits. In total, said Marty Meng, general foreman, around 250 devices were installed and connected at the fire alarm control panel on the first floor. The system is monitored by the property owner, Hallwood Properties, and is designed to send alarm signals directly to the local fire department.

The facility's security is maintained through an access-control system, consisting of proprietary Honeywell devices, including 18 magnetic stripe badge readers at the three entrances to the building and at internal entry points to sensitive, restricted areas; electric locks on 10 stairwell doors; and magnetic locks on the exit doors.

“Because we were working in an existing facility, all of the locks had to be modified to operate electrically,” said Meng.

All of the installed access-control devices were first wired to control panels on each floor, and then those panels were networked at the central control panel located in the first floor mechanical room.

“The system allows personnel at Emory Healthcare's headquarters to remotely monitor the security system and to allow or restrict access throughout the building, to open or lock doors as necessary, and to keep track of who enters and exits the facility and when,” said Hayes.

Nurse calling

And what would a secure healthcare facility be without a nurse call system? The system contains three stand-alone nurse calls, consisting of 15 devices each, which are designed to allow the nursing staff to monitor all of the beds in the recovery area. The devices are connected at the nurse's station where a corresponding alarm is sounded, along with a light at the patient's bed, when the emergency cord is pulled.

“Because of the center's relatively small size, no intercom is involved in this system,” said Hayes.

Although the medical-gas alarm system in the operating and recovery rooms was furnished and installed by the project's plumbing contractor and terminated and tested by the equipment supplier, electricians from United Electric installed the electrical wiring between the devices.

Of course, the renovated building needed a new power distribution system. United Electric installed a new 3,000-amp electrical service, which entailed removing the existing underground aluminum conductors and replacing them with copper. Electricians then ran the power from the transformer in Georgia Power's underground vault into the newly installed switchboard in the center's ground-floor electrical room. The power was then distributed to the 30 new distribution panelboards located throughout the building.

“Power was then wired to all of the regular and GFCI outlets for the medical and office equipment, robotics, and general and high-intensity surgical lighting,” said Meng. In addition, special isolating panelboards were required for the operating rooms to limit shock hazard.

The scope of work also called for the installation of a new 400kW backup power generator. The self-contained unit is designed to provide 24-hour backup power to the life safety systems and for critical equipment loads.

“Power is switched to the generator through three transfer switches installed in a separate electrical room,” Meng added.

Rising to the challenge

As is usually the case in fast-track projects such as this one, with its nine-month timetable, logistics and scheduling were major obstacles to remaining on time. In addition, the doctors who were moving into the facility over the course of one month had to let their patients know where to go and when, so no changes to their move-in dates could be made.

“Tenants were already occupying the building and seeing patients while work was still ongoing, changing the way the building could be used by workers and how material was stored and staged,” said Hayes.

To meet these challenges, the general foreman coordinated the electricians' schedules with the other trades and general contractor, and work was performed in the evenings, on weekends and on holidays.

Pruett Roof, clinical administrator of the orthopedic department for Emory Healthcare said, “United actively provided services as needed to ensure that the project remained on schedule, including coordinating with other vendors and subcontractors and providing manpower levels as required.”

Weekly meetings among all of the team members were held to discuss project progress and to adjust the construction and material-delivery schedules accordingly. All changes or new requirements were communicated immediately to all parties, while everyone's input was obtained to ensure the project progressed smoothly.

“The architect made himself available and promptly issued any supplemental drawings that were required,” said Meng.

According to Hayes, the team that Malone Construction put together understood the scope of the project and was committed to its successful completion.

“Constant communication and Malone's industry reputation for high levels of credibility ensured all the team members could trust in the company's leadership,” Hayes said.

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 or darbremer@comcast.net.