The $840 million project includes a new medical center, power plant, roads, sidewalks and other site improvements. It replaces the aging Robley Rex VA Medical Center on Zorn Avenue. (Michael Maddox, USACE Louisville District photo)
Designed to provide a safe and healing environment for local veterans, the Louisville VA Medical Center in Kentucky will incorporate modern patient-centered care concepts when it opens in 2026. The $840 million project, located near Brownsboro Road along the Watterson Expressway, includes a new medical center, central utility plant, roads, sidewalks, and other site improvements. It replaces the aging Robley Rex VA Medical Center on Zorn Avenue.
“The size and scope of this project is truly incredible,” said Jo-Ann Ginsberg, Executive Director of Robley Rex VAMC. “When the VA MISSION Act of 2018 was passed, it imposed some significant changes to the VA infrastructure. First, our footprint must align with the needs of our veterans. Second, our facilities must help us achieve recruitment and retention goals Ultimately, a new hospital is at the heart of these principles, and it will help us achieve our overall mission of providing the best possible health care to our patients.
“When complete, the new hospital will have over 972,000 square feet of space, with 2,600 parking spaces,” Ginsberg said. “These are substantial increases over our existing facilities. This increased capacity includes a women’s health clinic, which will allow us to provide comprehensive care to our female veterans. As this segment of the veteran population continues to grow, the number of female services we provide. »
The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Louisville District serves as the design and construction project leader. This role includes design, contract services and project management services from start to finish of construction. A contract was awarded to Walsh-Turner JV II, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, in August 2021 to construct the new hospital. The official designer is URS/Smith Group JV.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the new medical center was held on Veterans Day 2021. Construction will take about five years.
“We have a very ambitious and aggressive schedule to build a sophisticated, world-class facility,” said Melody Thompson, USACE Louisville VA Division Assistant. “We are building nearly one million square feet, with 51 separate departments and over 100 inpatient beds.
“All medical projects are challenging with the complexities associated with the many redundancies in utilities, unique clinical spaces like surgical and imaging departments, medical gas systems, and multiple low-voltage systems. And with the recent pandemic and an evolving supply chain, all mega-construction projects have hurdles to overcome. But we have a great contractor and a great team and we believe we can work together to overcome all of these challenges.”
According to Thompson, a significant amount of work remains on the project.
“We have only just started. The entrepreneur has mobilized. We were able to access the site and complete the clearing and grubbing, which now allows us to move forward with ongoing activities. We removed the excess topsoil. We are continuing the work of cutting and filling, the installation of rainwater drainage systems, and we have started the laying of crushed stones on the northern part of the site for the future northern car park, as well as the treatment of CL soils /CH with lime stabilization materials.
“The contractor is also moving ahead with the placement of stones on the haul roads. Several drilling rigs are on site and they have started drilling on the wire mesh pillars. The contractor is also using a ram to carry out the mechanical rock removal – they have completed three areas in the hospital area, and this effort has been more productive than expected. The blasting contractor has scheduled more blasting next week, but with multiple areas of working with various means and methods, coordination for safety is essential.
Mechanical rock excavation involves a version of a large jackhammer attached to the arm of an excavator and is used to physically break up bedrock. When selecting the appropriate technique to remove rock, crews must consider safety, proximity to adjacent structures, cost, and schedule.
Thompson said the explosions carried out to date have been very successful.
“We have seismic monitoring devices to assess the impacts, and all test data came back within the requirements set by regulators. There was, understandably, some initial concern from surrounding neighbors just in reason for unknown. So far the feedback has been positive.”
The construction of the medical center involves countless activities and a workforce that is expected to number in the thousands on site at the peak of construction.
“In a project of this size, almost every trade is likely to play a role in construction,” Thompson said. “We have nearly a thousand pillars drilled to various depths and sizes to support the various structures. Because this is a mission-critical facility for veterans, they have redundant utility requirements, emergency backup power systems and on-site water storage requirements in the event of catastrophic events.
According to Tim Hitchcock, engineer for the USACE area of the Louisville VA Medical Center project, workers are currently trying to get the entire site excavated and shaped to roughly what it will look like when the venture is complete.
“When we started the actual construction, we were given a mostly flat model to work with, and as you look at it now, you can see the basement taking shape and some areas getting closer to where will be the entrance roads In addition, we have started work on the foundations of the pillars that will support the hospital Site infrastructure has started on the north side of the site and will continue south over the next few months .
“Given the amount of land needed to build the full-service medical center and supporting structures, including garages, laundry room, central utility plant and water tower, finding 35 acres of land requiring minimal prep work was a great start,” Hitchcock said. . “We were fortunate to have a site without any prior construction, which eliminated the need for major demolition work. It really is a pristine site. Most of the prep work involved 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.”
The central utility plant is a two-story structure with interior mezzanine platforms. The east side of the building provides a covered yard for the removal and replacement of ground floor and first level equipment. The facade consists mainly of concrete masonry with green roof areas with a waterproof roof system. The openings consist of steel overhead doors and aluminum shutters. The plant is steel framed with concrete foundations. When completed, it will provide backup power and an HVAC system for the campus.
The north car park is made up of six levels of parking. It is mainly a concrete construction, with an open metal panel facade, with the possibility of building a similar south car park.
Regarding progress, Hitchcock said, “We’re at the beginning of a very complex installation. The main features coming up will be the building foundations and structures.”
Hitchcock said element management is also a consideration.
“Each area we work in has its own unique effects on construction. The wet and windy weather this winter forced the contractor to plan activities that could take place in such conditions. We are fortunate to have a many of our native Kentucky area business partners, and very familiar with what to expect.”
Work equipment includes tractors, bulldozers and excavators.
“In addition, we recently mobilized three large drill rigs capable of drilling 56-inch-deep holes in rock to support the medical center and support buildings. Over time, we will see various lifts and cranes, enabling us to construct the vertical parts of the building.”
Hitchcock noted that the main structure of the facility will consist of a concrete and steel skeleton.
“It will be covered with a skin of several cladding materials to include curtain walls and metal wall cladding. Looking inside, we will see several modern materials incorporated into the construction, providing a welcoming atmosphere for veterans who will use it.”
For USACE, overseeing the construction of the medical center is an incredible opportunity.
“This is a mega building project in Louisville, in our district’s backyard,” Thompson said. “We have the great honor of building a facility that will serve the veterans who are our colleagues, friends and family. Many of our team members are veterans. Knowing that this facility will exist for 50 years or more gives a immeasurable importance at the time.
“What we are doing today will serve thousands and thousands of veterans for decades to come, and it 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 will not only provide quality health care to so many in need, but it will also rightfully serve and honor American veterans.” CEG