By Randy CephusOctober 23, 2013
FORT HOOD, Texas - At approximately 60 percent complete, the new Darnall Army Medical Center is making a big scene on the Killeen and Fort Hood skyline. Currently over 1,200 skilled workers converge on the construction site daily to complete the many tasks comprising this monumental construction effort.
According to Richard Alexander, Fort Worth District construction manager and area engineer, the project's construction is scheduled for completion in 2014, with doors opening for patients the summer of 2015.
The Corps and its partner, Balfour Beatty-McCarthy are confident in meeting these milestones despite having to overcome a few challenges. The biggest challenge was overcoming the weather, where the team had to fight through 50 days of delay, so far, caused by heavy rains and wind that took place during critical stages of construction.
"That's hard to believe based on the current drought conditions, but at the onset of construction we were delayed due to rain," said Mark McElroy, project executive for Balfour Beatty-McCarthy.
With the conclusion of the Topping Out ceremony back in May, which signified the last beam being emplaced, all that could be seen from the project site were beams, concrete slabs, and frame and foundation work; the basic 'guts' of the structure.
Just four months later, the hospital structure looks more like the rendering of the completed project. As one stands in what will become the main lobby of the complex, one can see the earthy tones of brick and slab, along with smoke colored glass. One can also catch a glimpse at what will soon be the different corridors of the various wards. When viewing the back of the hospital complex, one can see the tiered effect of the building's six stories as well as the delivery area taking shape below ground.
At this point in the project, the team anticipates increasing the number of skilled workers. Project leaders estimate that between 1200 to 1500 workers will be on hand during the peak of construction. This poses yet another challenge to overcome as skilled workers are hard to come by due to competing construction projects around the area.
Although the team has been faced with challenges, one factor seems to resonate as the single most important aspect of overcoming challenges and obtaining project success.
"Communication is the key to the success of the project and we talk with our partners on the status and challenges of the project on a routine basis," says Alexander. "We may not agree on all matters, but putting everything out there and being transparent has created a level of trust among the team you just don't see every day."
One particular area of pride for both the Corps and Balfour Beatty-McCarthy is the emphasis on safety. This is something that is stressed all day, every day at the construction site. As one enters the project area, he or she will be greeted by a huge billboard sized poster inscribed, "I am safety."
"We currently have worked over 2 million man hours without a loss time accident, and for that matter, a very low incident rate for minor injuries for the number of workers on site," said Alexander.
Although the project is making a huge impact to the central Texas skyline, the new Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center team believes that the greatest impact will be to the Fort Hood community which will benefit from the services the hospital provides.
"One of the greatest accomplishments for the project will be the quality facility we will be able provide so world class medical care can be provided to the Soldiers, family members and retires of Central Texas, said Alexander. "Many businesses base their Return on Investment on the amount of money a project makes for them to recover their investment; however, with the Fort Hood Hospital, the ROI in this team's mind is the quality care that will come from this facility for our soldiers."