Commercial construction projects are fraught with challenges, from site complexities and permitting to coordinating trades and executing on schedule. These challenges are compounded when the schedule is tight, and they are complicated even further when a company is contracted after a project is already underway. Achieving successful integration depends as much on creativity and communication as it does on reliable products and engineering expertise.
The NeuroDiagnostic Institute in Indianapolis is among the major advancements that make up Indiana’s public mental health delivery system. When plans to build NDI were unveiled in December 2016, then-Governor Mike Pence called it the “center piece” of a plan designed to improve health care in the state of Indiana.
The new facility aimed to be better equipped to deliver expert neurodiagnostic evaluations and treatment for patients upon their arrival and move them efficiently and effectively into the most appropriate treatment settings within the mental health hospital system.
The seven-story building, which opened its doors to patients in the spring of 2019, can accommodate 159 patients at one time, with the capacity to treat 1,500 patients each year. It is housed on the campus of Community East Hospital in Indianapolis and operated in partnership with Community Health Network, Indiana.
Foundation for success
The NDI project was ambitious from the beginning. It not only set a high standard with the goal of improving mental health services, but it was planned for completion in only two years’ time.
The piping system component of the original project was awarded to Commercial Air Inc., a mechanical contractor in Lebanon, Indiana, and while the company won the bid with the piping system construction scoped as “weld only,” there was a recognition early on that the demanding schedule would be better met using an alternative joining method.
These solutions included faster and easier installation with Victaulic’s Advanced Groove System for pipe 14 inches and above, which, unlike welding, requires no hot work. AGS products are faster to install and simplify future system maintenance with a union at every joint.
“Doing this as welded project, as stated in the original scope of work, would have been nearly impossible,” says Chris Gatewood, vice president of Commercial Air. “But with the condensed schedule it was even more imperative that we were able to use Victaulic solutions. I think it saved the project.”
In collaboration with Victaulic’s Virtual Design and Construction team, Commercial Air worked in Autodesk Revit and used BIM 360 Glue software to share information and review progress. The plan was to review one floor every week to make the most efficient progress.
By using the Victaulic Tools for Revit software add-in, the designers created a highly detailed virtual construction model as well as a set of drawings, which meant the materials could be pre-assembled and piping and products arrived at the site ready to install. This minimized the amount of cutting and fitting on-site, which saved time and money by reducing installation time.
In the end, the design included a chiller plant with two chillers, multiple air-handling units on the lower floors, risers, a cooling tower, a boiler room, and hot water pumps as well as two penthouse-level AHUs and a mechanical room with distribution piping. The building’s piping ranged in size from 1.5-16 inches in diameter.
Modeling was especially valuable to the team as planning progressed. There is more critical building infrastructure in the ceilings and corridors of a hospital than there is in a commercial office building, which limits space for piping systems. The ceiling space in the NDI corridors was particularly constrained, especially for the 12- and 16-inch piping. Insights from the Revit model helped ensure all regulations were met before installing the pipe. It also helped identify and navigate around potential hurdles in advance, avoiding clashes and delivering a smooth installation process.
Piping components also proved particularly challenging because they had to be strategically placed so service and maintenance could be done in the future without being impeded by piping.
Additional challenges became apparent when the team began designing the penthouse piping, which included three hot water pumps, three large boilers, and 28 water heaters.
Not only were there space constraints, but the original design was nowhere close to representing the actual area. Furthermore, piping installation would have to be coordinated with other trades working in the same space.
Rising to the challenge, Commercial Air and Victaulic undertook a design-build approach for the penthouse. The extent of the inaccuracies meant team members had to start from scratch with a new design. Fortunately, a grooved system required less space than the welded one originally envisioned for the area. Using the proprietary outlet fittings and pump drops helped eliminate some of the vertical space, and the team implemented the solution for a nearly impossible situation in record time.
The willingness to consider an alternative joining method opened the door for more rapid execution in constructing NDI’s piping, but better tools and easier installation were only part of the equation.
Design, coordination, and communication were equally essential for making this project successful. Having an experienced design team focused on details and dedicated to developing creative solutions enabled piping system design and installation to meet a demanding schedule.