Canandaigua, New York – Another milestone was recently reached on the Canandaigua VA Medical Center construction project as the USACE team was able to turnover the Phase 1 facilities back to the Department of Veterans Affairs Canandaigua VA Medical Center.
The work taking place at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center is currently allotted into three phases. Phase 1 included demolition of Building 2, construction of an Outpatient Clinic, a Chilled Water/Emergency Power Plant, new power and water systems, and temporary Laboratory and Main Kitchen to support ongoing healthcare operations throughout the nearly six-year construction period.
Gerry DiPaola, USACE Project Manager for the Canandaigua VA Medical Center construction, attributed success thus far to the teamwork and dedication of the entire Project Delivery Team.
“Over the past six years, the number of team members working tirelessly towards this milestone, including those that have moved on from the project, is impressive. They have overcome many challenges to ensure the work in Phase 1 was able to be completed,” he said. “I want to acknowledge the efforts of our CFM partners, working together, to bring this project to reality for the Veterans of the Finger Lakes region.”
Matthew Lowe, Chief of the Veterans Affairs Division for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District, agreed that partnership has been key to the success of the project.
“Renovating and upgrading a VA medical center influences multiple stakeholders with a variety of interests and issues to navigate. It was very encouraging to have everyone involved working together to ensure success for this project,” he added. “The VA team, both CFM and the Canandaigua Medical Center have been instrumental in working through challenges and unknowns throughout these projects. I believe any success on the project is directly tied to the partnership having a mutual interest and overall goal of delivering for our Veterans.”
DiPaola said there are many issues that need to be considered when working on an active medical facility’s campus.
“One key consideration is to be able to have an active functioning medical center, in other words, maintaining patient services and seeing them with minimal disruption to their normal routine while the work was taking place,” he said. “It’s a great accomplishment - keeping the existing facility up in operation while constructing new infrastructure and renovating the existing.”
The work being done at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center is possible due to recommendations from the Department of Veterans Affairs Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) study, which identified that some decades-old facilities were being underutilized.
“This project enhances the use of the current VA Medical Center in Canandaigua. A study was conducted by the VA and it identified an underutilization of facilities at Canandaigua and so to improve services and Veteran access, planners at the Department of Veterans Affairs called for a modern and consolidated outpatient clinic - a 21st-century outpatient clinic - along with community living center complex, to include cottages and community center, to provide housing to veterans that would benefit from an assisted living type of environment,” DiPaola explained. “So basically, the project improves the delivery of healthcare by consolidating infrastructure and clinical services under one roof and enhances the assisted living care type of facility.”
Lowe said he is proud to be a part of this project that will benefit thousands of Veterans for years to come.
“For over 25 years, I’ve had the pleasure to be involved with new construction, renovated facilities and infrastructure projects on various military installations, but VA projects are special. You are proud to be part of something that supports and takes care of our Veterans,” he shared. “In a small way, all of us working these projects get to serve the men and women who were willing to sacrifice it all for our country. It’s humbling and I’m grateful to be part of what we’re doing to benefit Veterans.”
The Canandaigua VA Medical Center project includes the construction of a new 84,000 square foot Outpatient Clinic, a new chiller/emergency generator plant, renovates 85,000 square feet of existing facility space, and upgrades of existing roadways and site utilities as well as the construction of eight cottages comprising 96 individual rooms in a neighborhood like setting and a community center.
These state-of-the-art facilities were designed to blend seamlessly into the existing historical campus and provide world-class healthcare to approximately 65,000 Veterans living in the greater Finger Lakes region.
Maj. Gen. Kimberly Colloton, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deputy commanding general for Military and International Operations – and a former LA District commander – was one of several distinguished visitors, who received an update on Corps’ projects at the VA Longbeach Healthcare System.
Colloton was joined by Col. Andrew Baker, Los Angeles District commander; Tambour Eller, Senior Executive Service chief for Interagency and International Services Division; David Hibner, SES, director, U.S. Army Geospatial Center; Col. Chad Caldwell, acting commander for the Corps’ South Pacific Division; and other senior Corps and Veterans Affairs’ leaders to review progress of the new 181,000-square-foot Community Living Center and two separate 80,000-plus-square-feet mental health in-patient and out-patient facilities. The VA Long Beach Healthcare System serves more than 50,000 veterans.
“Since the last time I was out here, so much has been done,” Colloton said. “It’s great to see it so far along and so close to the end. We are getting there. They’re in the final stages of closing things up and making the final finishes to be suitable to move patients and providers in, so it’s exciting to see.”
Colloton, who was at the project site for the groundbreaking ceremony on Veterans Day 2018, said it’s taken a while to reach completion, but once it’s done, it will serve veterans in the area for years to come.
Focusing on taking care of the nation’s veterans by constructing these facilities at the VA is a top priority, and SES Eller said the construction progress has been phenomenal.
“What we’re observing is the partnership continuing to mature – the lessons learned and best practices,” Eller said, noting there are three other VA Community Living Centers and parking structures under construction, using the latest technologies. “At the end of the day, we’re supporting winning by implementing those best practices and delivering for our veterans.”
Baker also noted the amount of progress since his first visit in April 2023, before assuming command of the LA District in July.
“There’s really been a lot of progress,” Baker said. “It’s starting to look like a finished facility. I’m looking forward to getting this great facility into operation, which is a huge improvement to what the veterans on site have now. It’s going to be fabulous.”
The single building that currently houses the VA Long Beach mental health services and the Community Living Center Healthcare System patients is scheduled for demolition after the replacement facilities are fully operational. The $350-million projects are expected to be completed in fiscal year 2024.
For most construction projects, progress can be visually measured as structures start to come out of the ground and begin to take shape. This would not be possible without the foundations that transfers the loads of the vertical structures to the soil safely. Part of that foundation work can include the installation of drilled piers.
The Louisville VA Medical Center project recently achieved the completion of a major feature of work by reaching the milestone of “bottoming out” with the installation of the last of 1,057 drilled piers across the site. The drilled piers ranged from 24 to 72 inches in diameter and from five to 35 feet in depth.
All buildings have some type of foundation. Most residential buildings have what is called shallow foundations which generally include spread footings to prevent the building from settling. Drilled piers are a type of deep foundation, which is generally utilized for larger buildings, like the Louisville VA Medical Center, said David Garvin, geotechnical engineer.
“Drilled piers connect structures directly to the bedrock - keeping the building in place by minimizing settlement and lateral loads from outside forces such as wind loads, seismic loads, etc.,” he explained. “Since drilled piers are below the building, they are advanced from the top of the ground until bedrock is reached, with rebar and concrete placed, then the pier is tied into a column or grade beam.”
“Once the drilled pier is tied into the column or grade beam, the steel beams will be placed on top of it. After all steel beams are placed the loads from the entire building will transfer down to the drilled piers and disperse evenly throughout all drilled piers,” Garvin said. “The drilled piers are one of the main components that keep the building in place.”
With drilled piers playing such a key role, it’s important that they are placed with precision.
“There are many things to keep in mind when drilling piers. First, you need to drill through soil until bedrock is reached, this is usually easy to complete but the hardest part is ensuring the pier is drilled at the correct location,” he said. “Then, the drillers will reach bedrock. Once drilling through the rock is complete, the rock socket and bearing surface will be inspected. A professional experienced with inspecting drilled piers will perform a downhole inspection to ensure the rock socket and bearing surface is competent.”
“The last step is cleaning out the pier and placing rebar and concrete. The piers are cleaned out via downhole entry and after the pier is cleaned the rebar will be placed in the pier,” he added.
Garvin said looking back that the work went well with only a few minor issues.
“It seems like the start of this feature of work had its challenges, but after identifying the problems and coming up with solutions, the process was smooth sailing,” he said.
The $900 million project includes the construction of a new 910,115 square-foot medical center, parking structures, a 42,205 square-foot central utility plant, roadways, sidewalks, and other site improvements.
The new 104-bed, full-service hospital will provide world-class healthcare for more than 45,000 Veterans in Kentucky and Southern Indiana by integrating modern patient-centered care concepts to provide the best possible care for Veterans. In addition, to specifically address the needs of women Veterans, the new hospital will include a Women’s Health Clinic with four Patient Aligned Care Teams.
The project designed by URS-Smith Group Joint Venture is being constructed by Walsh-Turner Joint Venture II, Chicago, Illinois.
Construction is anticipated to be complete in 2026.
To learn more about the project visit: www.va.gov/louisville-health-care/programs/new-robley-rex-va-medical-center.