With an aggressive construction schedule – just 23 months to build a 485,000-square foot, five-story hospital – contractors knew that speedy installation was a must. They turned to Viega for help. 

The facility is the North Alabama Medical Center, located in Florence, Alabama. Operated by RCCH HealthCare Partners, the hospital is being built to replace an old facility in Florence. General contractor Layton Construction and mechanical contractor MMC Contractors are both proponents of Viega. 

John Thomas, Senior Project Manager for Layton, said his company and MMC both had previous success with Viega ProPress and were interested in incorporating it into the North Alabama Medical Center. 

“There are savings with Viega and really from an overall speed of installation standpoint,” Thomas said. “It was almost inconceivable that we could accomplish this schedule without the advantages of ProPress to speed it up overall.” 

However, initially the design engineers on the project weren’t so sure about press technology, and had some misconceptions. Together, representatives from Viega, Layton and MMC gave a presentation about the technology in hopes of getting Viega approved for the project. 

“It came down to quality control and how we would mark and identify joints as they had been pressed,” Thomas said. “We walked them through how the fittings are built and how we’d know (thanks to Smart Connect technology) if there was a leak. We won them over. I think coupled with the portfolio of projects that MMC and Layton were able to show where we’ve installed ProPress, it proved it’s a tested technology.” 

With that settled, the companies got to work on the new facility, breaking ground in December of 2016. Scheduled patient move-in is December 6, 2018, with final inspections of the facility set to wrap-up in October. It’s been a flurry of construction. 

Building for the future 

North Alabama Medical Center will replace Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital, a full-service regional hospital build in the 1940s. The new facility will be only about three miles away, but in addition to the 263-bed hospital, the complex will include a 72,000-square foot, three-story medical office building too. Future plans include additional buildings on the 25-acre campus for more medical office space, as well as a comprehensive cancer center, which would be a joint venture with the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

“Because the old hospital dates back to the 1940s, there was certainly a need to start with a fresh, modern, well thought-out planned health care campus, something that can serve the community for generations,” said Keith Allen, Vice President of Construction and Real Estate for RCCH. “Being a quick build, we went with some of our key trades to help with the early selection of materials and equipment to get us in the position to build quickly. We asked the teams to bring in any technologies and cost improvements so that we could weigh all options. Not just for cost, but from a lifecycle standpoint as well.” 

Viega Custom Blockquote
Quote Text: It was almost inconceivable that we could accomplish this schedule without the advantages of ProPress to speed it up overall.
Author: John Thomas
Author Info: Senior Project Manager, Layton Construction
It was almost inconceivable that we could accomplish this schedule without the advantages of ProPress to speed it up overall.
John Thomas,
Senior Project Manager, Layton Construction

Allen himself was familiar with Viega from previous work with another company. For this project, Allen said getting the approval for Viega definitely came down to quality assurance. 

“I like the speed and the simplicity of it, and I like the labor savings,” Allen said. 

Another selling point for Viega in a medical setting is the ease of use for future expansion or if repairs are needed. Work can be done quickly and without a need for flame, so fire watch and burn permits aren’t necessary. A crew can get in and get the work done quickly and safely, greatly lessening the impact on a hospital and its patients. 

Coming together 

Viega products have played a major role in the construction of North Alabama Medical Center. Mark Bradley, Superintendent for MMC, said nearly all the lines installed include Viega fittings. They’ll be used for hydronic piping, chilled water, heating water, domestic water and instrument air. Copper ProPress fittings, in sizes 1⁄2″ to 4″, are installed throughout the facility. Crews have run more than 265,000 feet of pipe. 

“At one time we had about 85 people on the piping side of the work for this project. It’s so big,” said Bradley. “I love that the copper system is clean and there are no shavings or flux in the system.” 

Bradley also talked about the simplicity of a pressed joint and why that’s important for a company like MMC. Based in Kansas City, he travels the country for jobs, and many of the workers are hired locally. He doesn’t have to worry about the available labor force for soldering or brazing. 

“We don’t always know the skillsets we’ll have,” he said. “And Viega’s reps do a fantastic job of coming to help train people and show them the right way to press. The ability to use ProPress helps us a lot in hiring.” 

Thomas echoed the advantages of ProPress versus traditional pipe joining methods. 

“It’s much quicker to pull the trigger and press than to braze copper,” he said. “I love the fact that we can train in a local market. And you know that things are pressed and holding pressure.” 

Around a quarter of Layton Construction’s annual revenue is from healthcare builds like the North Alabama Medical Center. Most are high-occupancy buildings like hospitals and emergency facilities or things like cancer and rehab centers. Layton’s work is all over the country, from Alaska to Hawaii to Miami to Pennsylvania. Thomas has seen plenty of construction and knows the importance – and sometimes difficulty – of staying on schedule and budget. 

“It cannot be overstated, the benefit we have in taking advantage of ProPress on this project, especially given the time we had to construct this hospital,” Thomas said. “Without the tools we have, like Viega ProPress, we could not deliver the job and be where we are on the schedule! 

“It’s the nature of what we see in the trend of healthcare – everyone wants it faster, cleaner and cheaper. It’s impossible for me to guess the time savings on a big job like this, but I can only imagine that with Viega, easily, 25 percent of the rough-in time is cut out, or maybe more. ProPress contributed to the earlier operating date, and to our success on this job.” 

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