Walsh Construction Co.

Walsh Construction has made its presence known in the Chicago area for more than 100 years. Founded in 1898, the family-owned company has built a vast range of commercial buildings and heavy civil projects all around the United States. As the company grew, offices opened in Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and Arizona, among others.

Walsh Construction credits much of its ongoing success to continual involvement in both the planning stages of construction as well as a hands-on approach during the construction process. The firm also treats its clients with a personal level of service, says John Frye, healthcare project director. “We bring a different approach to the construction process that many clients haven’t experienced before,” Frye says.

Not only does the firm try to deliver the highest-quality finished product at the best value and under budget, Walsh Construction also strives to speed construction time through different phasing strategies. “We have crews working in multiple areas at once,” Frye says.

When word came that the Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) was beginning an aggressive hospital improvement program in central and southern Illinois, Walsh jumped in head first. “There are 13 hospitals in that healthcare system,” Frye notes. “Eight of them are in central and southern Illinois.”  Walsh Construction has been selected, in association with joint venture partner Miron Construction, for another HSHS project coming up later in 2010 at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Ill.  Adams Management, the owner’s representative for most of HSHS expansion program, also is involved in the St. Mary’s and St. John’s Projects.  The architects for the expansion program are Odell Associates and Berners-Schoeber Associates.

What impressed the hospital board is the tight schedule in which Walsh promised the phase completion. “The architects approximated this project would take about 28 to 30 months,” Frye says. “We will deliver the project to the hospital within 18 months of the start date.”

Improved phasing plans and utilizing multiple subcontractor crews are effective methods for pushing the schedule at such a rapid rate. “We like to bring the work site to capacity,” he claims. “Walsh will hire 10 or 12 subcontractors to make sure the site is at maximum worker capacity.”

Earning Distinction

As work is due to be completed in fall 2011 on the St. Mary’s Hospital ex­pansion in Decatur, Ill., the construction firm has performed so well, “we feel we have become the contractor of choice for their capital improvement program,” Frye declares.  Mike Pedersen, Walsh healthcare pro­gram manager, adds, “That being said, we know we need to earn that distinction every single day, but feel we have proven ourselves in the project delivery and we are positioning ourselves to succeed.”

The $40 million redevelopment project includes a two-story lobby expansion, new laboratory facilities, an emergency room addition and future surgical department build-out. Also included in the project are a central plant upgrade, new pneumatic tube system and new laundry receiving facilities. Walsh is also responsible for reconstruction of all new roadways and parking areas, as well as site landscaping around the new and most of the existing facility.

Frye says that one of the biggest challenges to this renovation project is the fact that the building must remain open to patient care. “A large part of the project is taking place at the existing emergency, and patient and visitor entrance,” he notes. “We don’t want to impact the hospital’s business.” In addition, reconstruction and expansion of the hospital’s current parking facilities has made Walsh create a phasing plan that offers adequate parking while other areas are under construction.

The main part of the addition is the new emergency department, which will add 120,000 square feet to the space between all the departments. When complete, the main building will include three stories as well as a 6-story connecting link. The main structure consists of a concrete frame building while the high-rise portion is constructed of structural steel with a brick and curtain wall façade. “A portion of the roof has been converted into a green roof that includes garden spaces and trees,” Frye says. “Patients and visitors can view the space from the patient tower.”

Taking Care of Construction

The company has several healthcare projects in its portfolio including the $325 million Sherman Hospital Replacement Campus in Elgin, Ill., and the $90 million Chalmers P. Wylie Outpatient Clinic in Columbus, Ohio. He adds that Walsh’s relationship with the Illinois Department of Health assists the owners in getting projects approved faster and permitting issues resolved more quickly.

“I think one of the main things that sets us apart from other contractors is how well we focus on customer service,” Frye says. “Walsh puts a level of care into the building process that makes it a special company to work with.”

One such issue arose when the construction crews removed exterior walls of the hospital’s imaging department. The summer weather made the area very warm for the employees working there. “As soon as we realized the situation, we created a temporary cooling system within the space so the hospital workers would be more comfortable,” Frye says. “The hospital sees how we react to problems and they definitely appreciate our efforts.”

Using local subcontractors has spurred job growth in the area. “The subcontractors [in central Illinois] are smaller firms,” Frye asserts. “We have saved costs by buying the work directly from the subcontractors that hire each tradesmen as opposed to buying large subcontracted work packages that add costs through margin stacking.”

All of these factors add up to instill a sense of trust between the hos­pital and Walsh. “We take care of all of the construction aspects so the hospital administration can focus on patient care,” Frye says. “We try to make the project an enjoyable experience.”

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