Construction on the new Louisville VA Medical Center being built in Louisville, Kentucky, has only been ongoing for five months, but the site already looks quite different from how it appeared during last year’s Veterans’ Day groundbreaking ceremony.
Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District’s VA Division and the contracting teams have been hard at work during the initial stages of this mega-project, said Melody Thompson, Louisville VA Medical Center project manager.
“We’ve really just begun, but the contractor has mobilized, and we are seeing a lot of progress. We are working on getting the overall site excavated and shaped into roughly what it will look like when the project is complete,” she said. “We’ve set up the construction fencing. We were able to get onto the site and complete the clearing and grubbing which is what is now allowing us to move forward with current activities. We’ve been hauling off excess topsoil. We are continuing with cut and fill operations. Stormwater features are being installed and we’ve started placing crushed stone on the north part of the site for the future north parking garage.
“When we started actual construction, we were given a mostly flat template to work with, and as you look at it now you can see the basement taking shape and some areas being brought up close to where the entrance roads will be,” she added. “Additionally, we have begun working on pier foundations that will ultimately be the support for the hospital. The site infrastructure has begun on the north side of the site and will continue working south over the next few months.”
Tim Hitchcock, USACE area engineer for the Louisville VAMC project, added that the state of the site when the work began has aided in the construction process.
“Given the amount of land needed to build the full-service medical center and support structures such as the garages, laundry facility, central utility plant and water tower, finding 34 acres of land requiring minimal prep work was a great start,” he said. “We were fortunate enough to be given a site without any prior construction which eliminated the need to do any significant demolition work. It is truly a greenfield site. Most of the prep work has been removing the topsoil from the site which will either be used in other locations or be returned to the site when we are ready for planting.”
Hitchcock went on to explain while the project is still in the early stages, there is still much, much more work that will go into the completion of the approximately $900 million facility.
“We are currently at the beginning of a very complex facility. Key features upcoming will be the foundations and building structures. There is still a significant amount of technical work that needs to go into the infrastructure of a hospital such as medical gasses, communications, and monitoring equipment to ensure that the veterans get the state-of-the-art facility they deserve,” he explained.
As the workload increases, so will the number of workers on the site, Thompson shared.
“In a project this size, almost every trade is likely to play a part in the construction. It will involve thousands of activities and a workforce that we expect to climb to close to thousands on site at the height of construction to complete,” she said.
Bringing all these factors together to complete the project has been complex, but attainable, Thompson added.
“We have a very challenging, aggressive schedule to build a sophisticated, state-of-the-art world-class facility,” she said. “We’re constructing close to one million square feet, with 51 separate departments and over 100 inpatient beds. All medical projects are challenging with the complexities associated with having the numerous redundancies in utilities, unique clinical spaces like surgical departments and imaging, medical gas systems, and multiple low voltage systems.”
“All mega-construction projects have obstacles to overcome, and this one has been no different with the recent pandemic and changes in supply chains, but we have a great contractor and a great team and feel confident we can partner together to overcome any of these issues,” she added.
Thompson said knowing the new medical center will play such an integral part in the lives of veterans makes it that much more important that construction is done to the highest standards.
“From a “construction” point of view, we want to be sure quality is paramount. This isn’t just office space. Medical gas must be right - ventilation systems need to support a healthy building. Pharmacy requirements must be met – overall safety/security systems for patients and staff cannot be compromised,” she said. “From a “personal” point of view, my biggest concern is that we don’t lose focus on delivering a world-class medical center to our veterans; one that is worthy to serve them and their families for the service and sacrifice they’ve given to this country. If we stay focused on taking care of our Veterans, we’ll overcome the challenges ahead of us.”
Thompson went on to say there is added pride in working on this project because of the community connection it represents between the Louisville District and area veterans.
“This is a mega construction project in Louisville, in our district’s backyard. We have the enormous honor to construct a facility that will serve veterans who are our co-workers, friends and family. Many of our team members are Veterans. Knowing this facility will be around for 50 years or more places immeasurable importance on the moment,” she shared. “What we are doing today will serve thousands upon thousands of veterans for decades and that should be extremely humbling for all of us. For many, this will be the most important project of our careers. Every day this medical center, literally every day, will not only provide quality healthcare to so many in need, but it will also rightly serve and honor America’s Veterans.”
The project, designed by SmithGroup is being constructed by Walsh-Turner Joint Venture II, Chicago, Illinois, includes the construction of a new 910,115 square foot medical center, parking structures, a 42,205 square foot central utility plant, roadways, sidewalks, and other site improvements.
The new 104 bed, full-service hospital located on Brownsboro Road in Louisville, Kentucky, will provide world-class healthcare for more than 45,000 Veterans in Kentucky and Southern Indiana.
Construction is anticipated to be complete in 2026.
To learn more about the project visit: www.va.gov/louisville-health-care/programs/new-robley-rex-va-medical-center.