New job has man overseeing the hospital he helped create |

New job has man overseeing the hospital he helped create

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Director of Facilities Chris O'Higgins stands on a balcony overlooking the south lobby of the new Carson Tahoe Region Medical Center on Monday. O'Higgins was the construction superintendent before swapping jobs to join the hospital team.

Over the weekend, the public got its first look inside the new Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center. After years of planning and construction, the new state-of-the-art hospital is scheduled to open Dec. 3.

Chris O’Higgins served as the general superintendent for Hunt Construction, the general contractor for the center. As the project nears completion, he has taken a new position with Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center as the facilities director for the complex, overseeing plant management and maintenance for the building he helped create from the ground up.

What is involved in constructing a new hospital?

It starts with the owners meeting with architects and forming user groups who get together and decide what goes into the new building and how it will function. After those meetings the architects take it to engineers and they start designing the building.

The engineers create 50 percent design drawings, which are sent out to a variety of contractors who submit bids for the project. From those bids the owners begin to round down a short list contractors until a final general contractor is chosen.

Once a general contractor is chosen, the owners begin incorporating their ideas into the final drawings. We can help them by not changing the design of the building, but by the look and choice of the material that are used as a way to save them money or make it more functional.

Once those ideas are incorporated and the drawings are finalized, construction begins.

What was the time frame for construction of a new hospital?

It depends on the job; this one was 22 months. They wanted it done in under two years, which is a short time frame for a hospital project. That is part of the bid process. Companies will say they can build it in 23 months and then it becomes like “Name That Tune.” We also had an additional project because we built the Sierra Surgery building. We completed that project in 11 months and still completed the hospital on time and on budget.

What materials were used to build the Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center?

This one was unique because we are using 90 percent concrete and steel. All exterior walls are between 12-14 inches thick and we utilized 22,000 cubic yards of concrete and 21 tons of structural steel for the building. We used a 300-ton crane to lift the panels into place. We have the second largest tilt panel in the U.S. on this building.

From a construction standpoint, what was the most difficult part?

The scheduling. With the short time frame we had a lot of work to do and making sure the scheduling and coordination of the subcontractors so that everyone is on the same page and timetable. When you have a schedule this tight, everything has to fit like a glove in order to complete the project on time.

Were there any major changes to the original design?

The entry way was more elaborate originally, but it was changed to help save money. It is entirely concrete with a steel trellis and they were originally going to close in the first floor, but that was one of the design changes we came up with to reduce the total cost.

What are some unique features of the building?

Because of my experiences in health care, there are a couple of things that stand out. The windows in the patients’ rooms. Every room has at least a 10-foot window which is unique for a hospital. You get this sense of not being closed in when you are inside the building. Overall, the construction team and the interior designer did a wonderful job and it just feels like a very warm hospital.

What is left to complete before the hospital opens Dec. 3?

Our biggest hurdle right now is to get the final certificate of occupancy from the fire marshal, and we have been going through state licensure for the past several days. We are just working with the changes they recommended and trying to finish construction and landscaping in time to open.

There are always changes in signage and safety recommended by the fire marshal; for example, there were 22 exit signs added in the last two weeks as part of that process. The entrances are set and ready to go. They were designed for flowability and to prevent confusion. There is a reason for the way it is designed so that people will know where to go for the emergency entrance and for the hospital’s main entrance and the parking lots. We have 688 spaces in the parking lots and 72 of those are handicapped spaces.