A Project from the Heart

The Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn., is a new construction project that tugs at heartstrings. Chapel Electric Co., Dayton, Ohio, played a major role in the project’s electrical contracting construction.

“The Children’s Hospital is a place to hope and a place to heal for children with unique needs,” said Dennis Quebe, Chapel Electric CEO.

Ranked as one of the top 10 children’s hospitals in the nation by Child magazine, the facility treats patients for various ailments ranging from cancer treatments to bone marrow and organ transplants to broken bones. At its core is a nonprofit teaching and research hospital.

Earl Swensson Associates, Nashville, designed the 616,785-square-foot hospital. The project cost $172 million and took three years to build.

Patients were officially moved into the self-contained facility in 2004. Although the main hospital is adjacent, patients never need to leave the building to receive any treatment.

Bill Wood, senior project manager at Chapel Electric, noted that this was one of the largest projects at Vanderbilt University and in the Nashville area.

Story of Chapel

Founded in 1946, Chapel Electric has evolved into a leading electrical and technology contractor that routinely works well beyond the Ohio border. Chapel Electric’s affiliate companies include Romanoff Electric in Toledo, Ohio, and Chapel-Romanoff Technologies in both Dayton and Toledo.

“Chapel decided the key to expanding and prospering in today’s ever-changing construction marketplace was to be flexible enough to provide competitive construction services to select clients regardless of the geographical location of the project,” said Greg Ross, Chapel Electric president.

The company considers this its joint-venture technique, and it is why a contractor from Ohio ended up being a major player on a massive project in Tennessee.

Chapel Electric has joint ventured on a national level with some of the nation’s oldest and largest privately held electrical contractors in the healthcare, automotive and printing press market segments. Chapel Electric has also found a way to deal with the ever-changing landscape of the voice, data and video market.

In 2003, Chapel-Romanoff Technologies (CRT) was formed. This new company combined two of Ohio’s oldest contractors, Chapel Electric and Romanoff Electric, and aligned the two in a way that would support and enhance one another’s resources.

“This strategic alignment allowed us to differentiate ourselves while maintaining our ability to provide an integrated electrical and special systems technology total-facility solution,” Ross said.

Tennessee connection

Chapel Electric began to work on Children’s Hospital long before ground was broken. The company provided preconstruction services, which included cost analysis, value engineering and a constructability analysis. Chapel Electric worked with Smith, Seckman Reid Inc., also of Nashville, who was the mechanical, electrical and plumbing consulting engineer.

“The freestanding hospital is filled with the latest, state-of-the-art technology and information systems to provide the best healthcare services for the children and it offers a variety of family amenities,” Quebe said.

Chapel Electric was responsible for the installation of the major electrical systems and services within the facility. The distribution system alone comprised 12 miles of raceway and 50 miles of cable.

Best Access Systems served as the security system subcontractor to Chapel Electric, while South Western Communications installed the state-of-the-art audio and video systems. Other subcontractors collaborated on the project.

Other systems Chapel Electric oversaw or installed included distribution, lighting and power, nurse call, emergency signaling, personnel and asset tracking, public address, security and closed-circuit television, telemedicine and video conferencing, patient surveillance, intercom, audio-video presentation, and CATV/MATV. As illustrated by this project, today’s contractors are routinely called on to do much more than provide power.

Mike Hutcherson, manager of electrical services for Vanderbilt University Medical Center said the project progressed smoothly, there were no issues with the installation, and start-up operations were executed on schedule.


The fast-track project’s actual time frame for construction was only 24 months. Construction was started before final design documents were completed. Adverse weather conditions, including one snowfall that basically shut down Nashville for 24 to 36 hours, added more pressure.

“Managing a construction project is a detailed skill requiring procedures, communication and, most importantly, planning,” said Bill Wood, Chapel Electric project manager. “Though each project site is unique, this project presented an additional challenge than just being constructed on an existing campus site. It was surrounded on all four sides by existing structures and streets that had to be kept open to the public.”

From the mouths of babes

The power distribution and lighting systems are impressive with some 13,000 fixtures and 10,000 receptacles installed.

Hutcherson said the lighting package really stands out: “The children got involved in picking out the lights so there is definitely an array.”

Vanderbilt University’s leadership team came up with the idea and contractors didn’t mind at all. Allowing the children to participate gave the project a personal, hospitality-type touch, prevalent in today’s healthcare designs. The children chose the lighting fixtures throughout the building, including the stars and moons in the patient rooms.

The little things

The lighting design, inspired in part by the patients themselves, is one way in which this project shows heart. Other ways are less tangible, but were just as important in achieving its overall success, like a host of team members who worked consistently and effectively together.

“We do not rely on chance to provide our customers with the quality they need and deserve. All of our employees understand our focus on the customer and our commitment to quality,” Ross said.      EC

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.



About the Author

Jennifer Leah Stong-Michas

Freelance Writer
Jennifer Leah Stong-Michas is a freelance writer who lives in central Pennsylvania.

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