In California’s Inland Empire, an important health care service upgrade is underway. In 2013 the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) started work on a new major health care facility—a 271,000 square foot Ambulatory Care Center (ACC) for the VA’s Loma Linda campus—by selecting Walsh Construction Company (Walsh) as its general contracting and design-build firm. With cutting edge technology and innovative design, the ACC is poised to stand as a new model of healthcare standards in the VA system.
A one-stop shop for VA health care
The ACC will drastically expand the scope of the VA Loma Linda Healthcare System (VA Loma Linda), providing a facility built specifically with outpatient care in mind. The completed structure will be equipped with cutting-edge MRI and CT imaging technology, equipment for laparoscopic and endoscopic surgery, and top shelf tools for outpatient procedures such as dental and oral surgery, along with comprehensive medical and dental training for staff at the top of their game. With further space for primary care, general dentistry, physical medicine and rehabilitation, the completed ACC aims to be a “one-stop shop” to meet the needs of outpatient veterans.
“These services are not being provided currently for our veterans, with the VA having to outsource them to many other different services within the Inland Empire,” said Michael Zari, Walsh’s California program manager. “Now they are all being consolidated into one area, and using state-of-the-art, best-of-the-best equipment to provide these services.”
Moving outpatient care to the ACC will also benefit VA Loma Linda as a whole, allowing the existing site to expand its inpatient, specialist and emergency services—and with expanded parking and shuttle services, the two medical centers will be tightly connected. With these facilities operational, the VA moves closer to ensuring that veterans are able to receive the treatment they need, when they need it most.
Technology is a theme throughout the ACC project. With various mobile devices, workers are able to complete working logs and daily reports on site. Then with the help of tech-based programs, BlueBeam and SharePoint, the Walsh team is able to welcome collaboration with subcontractors and partners at every step of the building process.
“Everything’s in live mode, so once it’s uploaded everyone can see what’s going on: RFIs, drawings, updates,” said Zari. “We perform our punch list on BlueBeam, and that punch list is then shared immediately. It goes out to a list of recipients that were involved in that room, or that section of the building. It’s streamlining the process, and it’s very helpful for the trade partners as well as for the Walsh team.”
Finding human interest in workplace safety
“Safety is our main priority,” said Zari. Walsh emphasizes that with a number of techniques like safety checklists, Friday staff safety lunches, and devices intended to transform safety in relatable reality.
“We have family boards where we all put pictures of our families,” said Zari. “Our trade partners and subcontractors have also participated, and we say: those are the reasons why we work safe and are going home safe. We post these in public areas to remind everybody of the fact that people are going home back to their families and loved ones—that this is just a job and we need to keep them safe.”
The success of this effort speaks for itself. By the start of April, Walsh had accrued 500,000 man hours on the Loma Linda VA project without accident or injury. “Not even a band-aid,” Zari added. “That’s absolutely incredible, and that’s something to be celebrated.”
The ACC is also incorporating an assortment of thoughtful design and aesthetic elements, with a consideration to sustainability that extends throughout the construction process.
“We’re striving to be as net zero and friendly to the environment as possible,” said Zari, noting that Walsh has implemented such measures as full sorting of ferrous and non-ferrous materials from the project’s start. “It’s very easy to achieve in southern California, because a lot of companies are already set up to help us. We track and manage to ensure the items are making it to the right locations.”
Highlights of the ACC’s elegant design elements include a buckling restrained brace (BRB) frame system, used to create a lighter and more stable building with higher floor-to-ceiling heights, giving the facility more freedom to move walls and redistribute space in the future. Elsewhere the gravity flow-based HVAC system captures the chill of nighttime temperatures to more efficiently cool the facility during hot desert days, while an emphasis on natural light wherever possible imbues the facility with a calming sense of warmth and comfort.
“The view of the mountains is unobstructed—it’s gorgeous, and whenever you can see the outdoors and see beautiful surroundings, it provides you with more of a calm setting,” said Zari. “You get this serene feeling when you’re walking in to your appointment. The VA allowed us to be flexible with the base design, and add that in so that the veterans can benefit from it.”
The Walsh difference
A project like this requires a contractor that can handle its complexities and understand the importance of its success at a human level. As one of the largest family-owned general contractors in North America, with significant healthcare experience, Walsh Construction has the proven capabilities and experience to successfully deliver this project to the VA.
“Even though we have business groups, we don’t work in silos—we work hand-in-hand with all business lines, and that collaboratively lends itself to a better project,” said Zari.