Over 600,000 pounds of sheet metal go in to new Utah hospital.

The $100 million, 400,000-square-foot Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, Utah, shown under construction, includes 600,000 pounds of ductwork.
ST. GEORGE, Utah - Lying in the high-desert area of southern Utah, at the point the state meets Arizona and Nevada, the city of St. George is experiencing unprecedented growth as retirees and young working families discover its many opportunities.

In a short five-year period in the 1990s, the city's population grew 61 percent.

In this atmosphere of growth and prosperity, the Dixie Regional Medical Center saw a need to dramatically expand its services and space. At the end of 2003, the regional referral center moved into its new $100 million, 400,000-square-foot home, a hospital and medical office building that offers advanced trauma care and tertiary care services, such as open-heart surgery and neurosurgery. The mechanical engineering firm, which serves as consulting-specifying engineers on this project, has made indoor air quality one of its top priorities.

Under the direction of John D. Frank, a licensed professional engineer and vice president of Van Boerum & Frank Associates Inc. in Salt Lake City, Jeff Watkins, P.E., served as project engineer. Watkins, a principal of the firm, explained that designing an HVAC system for a health care facility is a very specialized task with its own set of code requirements.

"Following AIA (American Institute of Architects) guidelines for health care design, we must take into consideration patient comfort, the need for a sterile environment in the operating rooms, medical-gas needs and proper humidification," Watkins said.

Van Boerum has worked on the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, McKay Dee and Holy Cross hospitals.

Bruce and Ralph Montrone of Western Sheet Metal in Salt Lake City, the medical center's mechanical contractor.

Climate challenges

Since the climate in St. George is somewhat dry, with summer temperatures averaging between 95°F and 101°F, HVAC systems must be designed to maintain a minimum of 30 percent humidity. With the humidification equipment constantly introducing moisture through the air handlers, Dixie Regional Medical Center needed a duct liner that was moisture repellent, according to Watkins.

"We specified a duct liner that has moisture-repellency characteristics because of the need to maintain our humidity requirements," he said.

Officials chose CertainTeed's ToughGard R Duct Liner with Enhanced Surface. The mechanical contractor, Salt Lake City's Western Sheet Metal, installed 300,000 square feet of the rotary-based fiberglass duct liner. CertainTeed officials say it provides excellent acoustical and thermal performance. The recently introduced Enhanced Surface is approximately 40 percent more moisture resistant than the previous generation of ToughGard liners, according to company officials.

The new surface helps alleviate some concerns about moisture that may enter a duct system due to improperly sealed duct joints or poorly installed and maintained duct systems. The airsteam surface contains an Environmental Protection Agency-registered anti-microbial agent to reduce the potential of microbial growth that may affect this product.

Western Sheet Metal's Randy Grimmette installs the CertainTeed duct liner.

Lots of ductwork

At the peak of the project, Western Sheet Metal used 40 people to make 600,000 pounds of sheet metal ductwork for the medical center. According to Western executive Bruce Montrone, the company completed the work on an 18-month schedule. Like Van Boerum, Western is also a veteran of many health care projects, including McKay Dee Hospital, the state's largest, and the hospital at the University of Utah. Its HVAC supplier on this project was Hercules Industries.

Dixie Regional Medical Center traces its roots to the early Mormon settlers, including several dedicated physicians, who came to St. George in the 1850s. Built in 1913, the original Washington County Hospital was replaced by the Pioneer Memorial Hospital. Then in 1975, the Dixie Regional Medical Center was built and purchased one year later to become part of Intermountain Health Care, a nonprofit corporation.

Construction of the new hospital campus, which began in early 2001, was one of the largest such projects in the history of Washington County. It features 108 patient rooms, a 24-bed intensive-care unit, a 30-bed emergency department and eight operating rooms.

Renovations are now under way at the current campus, which is becoming a specialty hospital for women's and children's care. Adding the new jobs created at the hospital and other employment generated in the community by the hospital's opening, Dixie Regional Medical Center will be responsible for 2,000 jobs and $101 million in household earnings in Washington County, according to local officials.

The medical center has 108 patient rooms, a 24-bed intensive-care unit, a 30-bed emergency department and eight operating rooms. Image courtesy of Dixie Regional Medical Center.

Major players

Okland Construction Co., with offices in Salt Lake City and Tempe, Ariz., served as general contractor on the project. Another participant with extensive experience in the construction of medical centers, Okland has built the Magic Valley Regional Medical Center in Twin Falls, Idaho, the Colorado Springs Memorial Hospital, and the Salt Lake Regional Medical Center. The architectural firm for this project was Ashen and Allen, based in San Francisco. Western Sheet Metal was a subcontractor to J&S Mechanical Contractors of Draper, Utah.

Van Boerum & Frank Associates was not only responsible for the design and specification of the HVAC system, but also plumbing, fire-protection and medical-gas systems. The new mechanical system comprises three chillers in the central plant, with environmentally friendly R134A refrigerant and 1,930 tons of chilled water. One chiller is on emergency power. Two steam boilers provide all heating, domestic hot water, and humidification and sterilization for the facility. Nine air handlers range in size from 55,000 cfm to 85,000 cfm.

The variable-air-volume reheat system consists of medium-pressure ductwork, with air passing through the VAV boxes, and then dropping to low pressure, providing optimum comfort control in all spaces. Individual control is provided throughout the facility. All medium-pressure ductwork is wrapped with insulation, while all low-pressure supply and return ductwork is lined, except for invasive procedure rooms, as indicated by code requirements.

Dixie Regional Medical Center administrator Steve Wilson is proud of this project.

"We are excited to benefit from the expertise of our design and construction firms," Wilson said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime project and we are committed to constructing the most beautiful, efficient hospital possible to serve the people of Utah's Dixie region."