In the fall of 2001, Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., decided to expand its Radiation Oncology Department in its Hayes Hall facility. The hospital chose Hitt Contracting Inc., Fairfax, Va., from a select list of bidders to be the general contractor for the 29,000-square-foot, $7 million renovation and new wing construction project. “The bidders’ list was developed by the hospital, the architectural firm of Oudens & Knoop Architects in Chevy Chase, and the Baltimore engineering firm of Leach Wallace Associates Inc.,” explained Albert Winfield, president of Power Services Inc. (PSI), Upper Marlboro, Md.

Then, in November, PSI, which was included on a list of pre-qualified electrical contractors that could bid on the project, submitted its proposal to Hitt Contracting for the wing’s high- and low-voltage systems. “The company’s 15 years of experience in healthcare facility construction was an important factor in being chosen for the project,” Winfield said. The final, $475,000 electrical contract was awarded to PSI on a negotiated basis, and would take only 11 months start to finish.

PSI and Hitt Contracting have teamed up on hundreds of diverse projects since the company’s inception, and also have a long-term relationship with Sibley Memorial Hospital. “We have worked with Sibley on a number of power upgrade projects and have enjoyed a continuous, ongoing relationship with the hospital,” said Winfield. Over the past 15 years, PSI has also worked with the engineering firm of Leach Wallace on various other healthcare facility projects around the Washington/Baltimore metropolitan area, including power upgrades, nurse call and paging systems and telemetric monitoring systems.

The project

Sibley Memorial Hospital is a nonprofit, full-service, 328-bed acute care community hospital serving the Washington, D.C. area. The campus is also home to an assisted living residence, a rehabilitation medicine facility, a skilled nursing care facility for seniors, a residential Alzheimer’s unit and the Hayes Hall Radiation Oncology facility. The extension of the one-story Hayes Hall building is designed to house doctor’s offices, research, consultation, waiting, dressing and exam rooms, a reception area, nurses’ station, control room, a simulator room that uses three-dimensional technology to diagnose tumors and formulate treatment strategies, and three linear accelerator rooms, which are used to provide radiation treatments for various types of cancer. The below-ground basement level houses all of the mechanical systems for the building.

PSI began work on installing the power distribution and lighting systems and the nurse call, fire alarm, and paging systems in January 2002. With an average of eight and a peak number of 10 electricians working in the field, the company finished work in November 2002.

The first order of business was extending the electrical service from the hospital’s substation and power distribution system to the new wing’s 480V distribution panel, and then to the seven, 208V breaker panels located throughout the new wing. “We were also responsible for installing the emergency backup 480V power distribution system, which is necessary to ensure that critical medical equipment and computer electronics never experience outages,” recalled Tarry Jackson, project manager. Also as part of the traditional electrical system, PSI installed medical-grade power conditioners for the linear accelerator rooms to ensure that the very expensive equipment had clean, conditioned power. “Clean power is especially important when performing radiation treatments. The hospital can’t afford to have any spikes, surges, sags or transient voltages when operating such extremely sensitive equipment,” Jackson added.

The extensive lighting system required PSI to install fluorescent office lighting, crown fluorescent uplighting in the accelerator rooms and fluorescent downlighting and wall sconces in the hallways, waiting rooms, and control and exam rooms. In the radiation treatment rooms, PSI also installed the backlighting for the ceiling murals that are designed to help patients relax. In total, PSI installed more than 140 standard fluorescent fixtures, 260 linear feet of crown uplights, 107 industrial lighting fixtures for the mechanical rooms, 90 parabolic fluorescent fixtures, 185 fluorescent downlights, 18 undercabinet lighting fixtures at the nurses’ stations and desks, six pendant lights in the waiting room and 50 decorative wall sconces in various rooms throughout the building.

For the nurse call system, PSI installed 12 nurse call pull switches in various patient and exam rooms and terminated the copper control wiring at the main nurses’ station. For the paging system, PSI installed 30 speakers and volume controls throughout the new wing and tied them back into the existing paging system in the original building.

The fire alarm system required PSI to install 120 devices including smoke detectors, pull stations, extender panels, magnetic door holders and strobes. The company’s electricians replaced the two existing annunciators in the original oncology center and tied both the existing and new fire alarm systems together in two, new, state-of-the-art panels.

Somewhat more complicated was the pre-action fire alarm and dry sprinkler system designed specifically for the accelerator and simulator rooms. “The pre-action system is stand-alone and consists of 44 smoke detectors, two pull stations, two chime strobes and one control panel, which had to be tied into the main fire alarm system,” explained Jackson.

Designed with three-tier protection, the pre-action fire alarm and dry sprinkler system prevents water from entering the accelerator rooms unless there is an actual fire. “The system is pressurized by air and consists of regular sprinkler heads that are controlled by multiple smoke detectors in a three-tier system that prevents accidental discharge of water that would irreparably damage the sensitive, expensive equipment,” said Winfield.

PSI was heavily involved with Alarm Tech Solution LLC, Severn, Md., in the design of the pre-action system. “The intricate nature of the system required that our staff work closely with the experts at Alarm Tech to ensure that the proper coverage of the rooms would be maintained,” Jackson said. PSI and Alarm Tech designers worked together to lay out the exact number and position of the required sprinkler heads and smoke detectors that the hospital required to ensure protection against both accidental water discharge and fire.

Special challenges

One of the biggest challenges faced by PSI was the installation of the systems in the linear accelerator rooms, which have 48-inch-thick concrete, lead-lined walls. “The electrical service and control wiring, which was laid in two- to four-inch conduit, had to be installed within the rebar before the concrete was poured and the lead installed. The termination points of these raceways, which had to mate up to the equipment being installed, were also embedded within the concrete. Plus, the equipment location tolerance was less than 1/4 inch,” recalled Jackson. In addition, all conduit had to be installed at an angle to prevent it from conducting any of the radiation used in the rooms to treat patients.

The conduit installation required a great deal of coordination with the other trades working in the same space because all of the electrical, plumbing and mechanical components had to completed and correct when the concrete was finally laid. “No mistakes could be made because once the concrete was poured you couldn’t go back,” said Jackson.

The 11-month, fast-track schedule also required the team to work closely together to maintain their product delivery and construction schedules. In addition, PSI needed to work directly with the hospital while tying the new wing’s power and fire alarm systems into the existing ones while maintaining the hospital’s entire facility without interruption.

To address all coordination and scheduling challenges, PSI field and project management personnel held weekly meetings with the rest of the team, consisting of representatives of the general contractor, owner, architect, engineer and other subcontractors, to discuss schedules and solve any conflicts or issues that had arisen. The project foremen also held regular on-site meetings with the other trades to coordinate construction and ensure that the project remained on schedule.

Because all of the team members had previously worked together on a number of various healthcare and other projects throughout the region, they were able to apply their relationship and make the most of their technical experience to deliver a project to the owner that satisfied all of its requirements, exceeded expectations and that would win an industry award for excellence.

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.