In Paramus, the team had two weeks from conception to delivery to convert a hospital gymnasium into a space for treating COVID-19 patients.
The limited time frame meant the team needed to use a totally new approach to design – or perhaps an old approach.
“We were sketching everything in notebooks and scrap paper on site,” Policke said. “It was actually pretty refreshing.”
The team worked quickly to complete site assessments, perform load counts and begin determining solutions for air handling units, emergency power and the sprinkler system.
“Our first step was to assess the existing conditions and determine what we could use to our advantage,” Policke said.
Site and time constraints forced the team to think creatively and use an iterative design process, working closely with project partners and the USACE. An early idea to place air handling units inside the space was scrapped because it would impede access by the medical staff to patients. Another plan was scrapped when the manufacturer was unable to guarantee delivery within the accelerated timeframe.
“We went back to the drawing napkin a couple times,” Policke said. “Ultimately we designed a system based around two readily-available air handling units located outside the gym and ducted in to the space, providing the necessary supply and outdoor air changes to the space.”
For emergency power, the team had the choice to either design a large portable generator to sit in the nearby parking lot or work with building facility personnel to identify a viable, existing emergency power source.
“We received prior approval from facility operations to utilize the existing generator if deemed appropriate, so we immediately walked with personnel who were very familiar with the site,” said Mike Galvin, associate with WSP and the project’s lead electrical engineer. “We designed a plan to use the existing generator – which had spare capacity – as opposed to a portable generator, that would have required additional space and regular monitoring of the fuel tank and fuel delivery scheduling.”
With the use of the existing generator and normal power sources, the team also had to identify normal and emergency switches in existing switchboards to serve a new automatic transfer switch (ATS) as well as a location for the ATS within an adjacent building. The electrical distribution system (with the inclusion of a step-up transformer for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) loads that could not be provided at 208V, 3phase) was designed quickly based on load information that was provided at the time.
“Being a hospital, we designed the system conservatively and it’s a good thing we did,” Galvin said. “After the design was completed, electric beds were introduced to the project. A quick, late-in-the-game calculation showed that, with a hefty diversity, the electric beds could be accommodated without increasing system capacities.”
Initially there was a program for additional plumbing fixtures to support the patient and nurse space. However, the project ultimately opted to use utilize self-contained point-of-use plumbing fixtures due to time constraints. The adjacent hospital sprinkler system was also assessed and ultimately tapped and expanded into this isolated space.
The conversion was complete and fully operational in two weeks as planned, providing overflow capacity to the local community, which was particularly meaningful to Policke.
“I grew up near Paramus, so to work on a project that would have a positive benefit for the community – especially during these times – was really special,” Policke said.
“We worked very closely with the hospital officials, the architect, general contractor, subcontractors and each other to turn this project around in record time,” Galvin added. “All parties were very cooperative despite tremendous pressure to get answers immediately at all times of the day, evening and weekends. I was proud to have been part of this opportunity in my own community and happy to have been asked to be part of the team.”