This parking garage for the Cleveland Clinic was taken down to make way for the clinic's new heart center. Photo courtesy of Cleveland Clinic Center for Medical Art & Photography.

While the Cleveland Clinic's new Heart and Vascular Institute isn't set to open until October 2008, the prognosis on the project's construction is looking good, especially the HVAC and sheet metal work.

Cleveland-based Reliance Mechanical and Franck & Fric Inc. are currently installing the mechanical systems and ductwork for the 970,000-square-foot facility. When the construction is finished two years from now, the sheet metal and mechanical contractors will have taken part in the construction of the largest heart center in the country.

But before that happens, more than 700 trades workers will need to be coordinated and over a million pounds of sheet metal will be fabricated.

Construction begins on the Cleveland Clinic's new Heart and Vascular Institute. Photo courtesy of Cleveland Clinic Center for Medical Art & Photography.

Bigger and better

For many years, the Cleveland Clinic has been recognized as one the nation's leaders in health care. It has been named several times as one of "America's Best Hospitals" byU.S. News & World Report.

With the opening of the Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute, the facility will reach a new milestone by becoming the "largest single-use medical facility" in the country, according to Pen Wolf, construction manager for the Cleveland Clinic.

Wolf said that the clinic has had one space in the hospital for all of its cardiac specialties, but the department "was bursting at the seams." By the late 1990s, the hospital knew it was going to have to expand. More than 10 years later, Wolf said that the Cleveland Clinic had no idea how ambitious the expansion would be.

A $70 million gift was given to the clinic by one of the founders of a beauty products manufacturer, as well as donations from 30,000 supporters. The money led to plans for an entirely new and separate heart facility, which will serve as the main entrance for the Cleveland Clinic.

To illustrate just how large the new facility will be, Wolf said that the footprint for the building is approximately 100,000 square feet and will have eight floors.

Those eight floors will contain 16 operating rooms, 155 physician offices, 79 procedure rooms, 290 private patient rooms, 110 critical-care labs, 34 procedure and imaging rooms and 130 exam rooms. The new clinic will also house a fully equipped conference center with satellite video and digital-imaging capabilities.

Forty-five subcontractors will be involved with the project. There are currently 200 trades workers involved with the building, but according to Wolf, this will grow to over 800 workers as the project progresses.

The Cleveland Clinic's heart center begins to take shape as steel supports are put in place. Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Medical Art & Photography.

From the ground up

The heart center is currently in the structural phase of development, with the building's steel frame to be completed this fall. The exterior walls will also be finished in late fall or early spring next year.

While the building is taking shape, Reliance Mechanical is busy getting ready for the installation of the center's heating and cooling equipment.

Reliance Mechanical and the Cleveland Clinic are not strangers. Reliance, along with sheet metal contractor Franck & Fric, has performed routine maintenance on the Cleveland Clinic's mechanical systems for the past 15 years.

Rich Prospel, Reliance Mechanical's project manager, says the 70-year-old company has long specialized in mechanical construction for medical institutions, including plumbing, heating, air-conditioning and ventilation services. Besides hospitals and health centers, the company has taken on several high-profile projects in the Cleveland area, including installing mechanical systems at Jacob's Field, home of the Cleveland Indians baseball team.

Reliance Mechanical has also had a long working relationship with Franck & Fric. The sheet metal contractor has partnered with Reliance for over 40 years. Gary Pasco, project manager for Franck & Fric, said that 90 percent of his company's work is subcontracted through Reliance Mechanical.

With Reliance Mechanical and Franck & Fric's history with the Cleveland Clinic, it was only natural that the two companies would team up for the new heart center, officials said.

"This job has been in the works for many years," said Prospel.

Plans change

In fact, Prospel said that he was set to retire three years ago, but has stayed to work on the heart center project. With the entire project still in the beginning phases, Prospel will be onboard for some time to come.

Franck & Fric has already started in the center's basement by installing some preliminary ductwork. By November, the roof should be completed and "we'll be rigging the ductwork," said Pasco.

He explained that a mechanical room will be housed in a rooftop penthouse. All of the ductwork will come down the roof, through each floor and to the basement. The entire building will have 11 shafts for the ductwork.

"Some of the ductwork is very large," said Pasco. One duct will measure 96 inches by 70 inches. One of the air handlers on the roof will use a duct that is 62 inches by 84 inches in diameter.

Prospel said that the roof would include 10 custom air handlers, all with a 100-cfm capacity.

"These aren't small air handlers," he said.

For heating and cooling, Prospel reported that the project would not use in-house boilers or chillers. A separate chiller plant will supply most of the heating and cooling via a 20-inch chilled water supply that will come across the second floor of the building.

With the parking garage demolished, the Cleveland Clinic has an open space ready to start building its new heart center. Photo courtesy of Cleveland Clinic Center for Medical Art & Photography.

The future

When it's time to start making some of the large pieces of ductwork, Franck & Fric will use an Iowa Precision machine at its fabrication shop. The total amount of ductwork, according to Pasco, will be 1.5 million pounds.

Pasco said that the fabricated ductwork would then be sealed and shipped to the jobsite. This guarantees the ductwork is free of dust and debris when it is time for installation.

That is not the only measure the hospital is taking to secure an adequate indoor environment. Wolf said several Strion air filters would be used, including HEPA filters in each of the operating rooms. An ultraviolet light system will also be installed in the coils to inhibit the growth of mold.

Both Prospel and Pasco said that installation of the ductwork and the mechanical systems should go smoothly when the time comes. In the meantime, Reliance is facing some different challenges.

For example, Prospel said that approximately 10 of his technicians have been spending most of their time coordinating the placement of electrical systems and piping on each floor. Technicians started mapping out the placement of systems back in July 2005, and are only up to the fifth floor of the eight-floor building, he said.

But Prospel and Pasco are not worried. In fact, both project managers are looking forward to seeing the hospital finished. They or somebody they know might even be patients someday, the men added.

"It's nice to know that you worked on a job that could one day help your family members," said Prospel.

For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail