By Capt. Ryan HignightApril 24, 2018
The nearly 400,000 military veterans located in Colorado will soon have a new Veterans Affairs-managed hospital to seek medical attention. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, declared the construction of the new campus substantially complete in January 2018. The Rocky Mountain Regional Medical Center, located in Aurora, Colorado, just outside of Denver, is comprised of 12 buildings and offers veterans a full-service medical facility to meet all of their medical requirements.
"We are very honored to be able to help, to be able to partner with them (Veteran Affairs) to be able to get these critical facilities to take care of our service members," said Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commander and 54th Army Chief of Engineers.
The new $1.7 billion, 1.2 million-square-foot hospital replaces an older, dated VA hospital built in Denver in the 1950s and offers Colorado's veterans state-of-the-art facilities. Within the new hospital, veterans have access to a spinal care injury center, research facilities and a diagnostic treatment center.
The VA hospital construction was originally started by a contractor before 2014 but stalled due to some disagreements resulting in litigation filed in court. At that point, the court asked USACE to step in and advise and assist with completing the construction on the project. USACE awarded a completion contract in late 2015 to the original contractor.
"It was really complicated when we (USACE) came on board," said Andrea Rodriguez, Rocky Mountain Regional Medical Center Program Manager. "The project was 50 percent complete... here was a lot of collaboration that was required and a lot of team building."
To ensure all 12 of the buildings were completed in the prescribed timelineeach of the buildings was assigned to a different project team, essentially treating each building on the campus as its own project with its own completion date. This differs from a normal USACE project because it normally manages a project from conception to completion, and an entire project is managed by a single team no matter the quantity of buildings.
This unique approach forced the team to come at problems differently than normal which allowed the project to move forward at the anticipated pace, Rodriguez said.
"We are fully anticipating meeting all of the goals the VA Medical Center has in terms of when they start using and opening these facilities, and start to see patients and functioning as they intend to do," said Peter Sturdivant, Chief of Construction, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District.
The hospital complex consists of a research facility, a diagnostic treatment facility, two inpatient buildings, two new clinic buildings, as well as renovation of a pre-existing clinic building. The concourse, or spine of the campus, is a long corridor that connects all the other buildings allowing both veterans and hospital staff to travel across the campus without stepping outside into the elements. Additionally, there is an energy center and three parking garages: one for staff and two for veterans.
The hospital is a full-service facility with operating rooms, intensive care units, research facilities and a therapy pool to allow medical professionals to prescribe appropriate services and procedures for patients.
Across the country, the Army Corps is building fifteen different facilities, projected at nearly $8 billion, for the VA and is using this one in Aurora as a blueprint for the others. Many of the challenges faced in this hospital are also being found in the other facilities.
"It's critical getting the issues straightened out during design," said Terry Stroschein, resident engineer. Stroschein added that he continues to work with the integration team to get everything functional and working together.
As progress is made on the project, USACE members from other VA projects across the nation visit the Aurora project site to cover the critical lessons learned from this project and integrate them into each of the other projects.
Upon completion, the campus will meet the requirements to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED certification is the "most widely used green building rating system in the world... LEED provides a framework that project teams can apply to create healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings."
USACE construction representative Joe Caracillo says cooperation between the contractor, the VA and USACE is great and the "representatives of each organization have worked hard to bring that partnership together to work together as a team. It is a highly visible project that a lot of the city has known about and the veterans are very interested in."
"Ultimately, this hospital is being built to support the warfighter," said Col. John Hudson, Omaha District Commander. "Those veterans receiving medical attention in this hospital deserve the best facility that the Omaha District can provide. We will provide a quality product."
The USACE has turned 11 of the 12 buildings over to the VA. The final building, the Diagnostic and Treatment Building, is complete but is waiting on the paperwork to be processed. Members of the VA have already begun training in the new facilities.
Mirroring the USACE motto of "Building Strong," Semonite said the VA hospital is nearing completion and will be "Finishing Strong! Because that is what it is all about."
The hospital is located just off Highway 225 on the east side of Denver, allowing both Colorado veterans as well as others close to the area easy access to the hospital and medical care. For more information about the hospital or scheduling appointments, please visit www.va.gov.