Demands of sensitive environment bring award recognition

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A demanding hospital expansion project at Christchurch Hospital won local building company Leighs Construction top prize in the Health category and the $5 million – $15 million value category in the 2014 NZ Commercial Project Awards.

Leighs Construction was given the difficult task of managing and implementing the expansion of Christchurch Hospital’s Parkside Wards and Acute Medical Assessment Unit (AMAU) around a fully functioning medical unit within a highly sensitive environment.

The February 22, 2011 earthquake destroyed much of the ward space at the hospital, and the expansion project had to be undertaken around operating theatres, which were still in use as the rebuild was carried out.

The tight completion date, location, operational restrictions and an extremely high medical standard requirement was what gave Leighs Construction, along with its project partners Ian Krause Architects, Warren and Mahoney Architects, Holmes Consulting Group and Rider Levett Bucknall, the edge in the award judging.

The initial brief was to convert the offices and laboratories into urgently needed bed space and to complete a new ward block. This consisted of three wards, plus a plant room, with one ward defined as the Acute Medical Assessment Unit (AMAU).

Shortly after the project began, the structural design was changed to meet IL4 standards, a new concept in New Zealand’s construction industry.

Graeme Earl, Leighs Construction operations manager and project lead for the hospital expansion, says the IL4 requirement added some additional pressure to the project but was necessary under the circumstances.

“In the event of an earthquake or something similar the building must continue to operate. So everything had to be constructed in a way that ensured minimal damage and impact on critical services, enabling them to be up and running again within minutes of an event.”

Mr Earl says the project had a rather straightforward brief, but execution proved to be extremely demanding, as the operational constraints impacted on progress.

“Operating theatres were sandwiched between two of the floors we were working on, and none could be closed down at any time. A lot of the work we were doing was disruptive in terms of noise and vibrations, so we had to work within some pretty tight tolerances, which made it very difficult.”

The project was completed in August 2013, with the expansion bringing the AMAU on the ground level, Cardio Thoracic Ward and Specialist Patient Care Unit on level two, and a new Plastics Ward on level three, to life.

The two new wards on level two and three have created 64 new patient beds, as well as various back of house spaces, resulting in an additional 2400 sq m of hospital facilities.

Mr Earl says the project was “certainly unique” and one he won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

“I thoroughly enjoyed working on a health project, and it’s been a great stepping stone for Leighs as a key player in Christchurch’s rebuild.”

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