The hospitals are to use EHG Duct’s Quick Kit products in the air-distribution system.

Two Ontario hospitals are getting major upgrades that will make them some of the greenest such facilities in the province.

Opened in 1865, St. Catharines General Hospital is one of Canada’s oldest health care institutions. It has 200 beds and is equipped to handle the St. Catharines area’s most critical patients.

In 1948 the nearby Ontario Street Site hospital was built. It started as a maternity facility, but today offers a number of medical services including an urgent care center, dialysis services and a detoxification program.

The Niagara Health System, the government-run organization that oversees 12 regional hospitals, plans to replace both facilities. The health system plans for the new hospitals to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating program - and do it on a budget.

Contrary to common belief, green building costs do not always exceed traditional building budgets, many experts say. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the cost premium for a LEED-certified building can be as low as 2 percent and in some regions no increased costs at all.

The project is expecting to earn certification by the U.S. Green Building Council and its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating program.

Low-cost success

The NRDC stresses two things for a low-cost, successful green project: the analysis of the building materials and their lifecycle, and selecting contractors educated in sustainable design and building. In the case of the St. Catharines project, the architects were up for the challenge. Firms Silver, Thomas and Hanley, and B&H Architects are accomplished design firms specializing in sustainable design and building.

Keeping costs contained was just as important as incorporating environmentally sustainable products. The focus was on reduced energy consumption, energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems. EHG Duct’s Quick Kit products were selected for the air-distribution system.

First introduced in 2009, this would be the first complex of this magnitude to choose EHG’s Quick Kit, company officials said.

Quick Kits are designed for low-pressure systems requiring minimal air leakage. The Quick Kit product line is a self-sealing duct system manufactured with EHG’s Air Movement and Control Association-rated spiral ductwork.

The estimated $1.56 billion (Canadian) the project will cost will be paid by a public-private partnership financing program known as an alternative financing and procurement. Sometimes called “P3s,” they are a “legally binding contract between the government and (a) business for the provision of assets and the allocation of responsibilities and business risks” associated with public infrastructure construction.

Companies specializing in public-private partnerships are accountable for financing, planning, design, construction and long-term operation of community projects. P3s are common in Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom, and are growing in popularity in Canada.

Target Metal Products is an EHG distributor in Canada, and a contributing supplier for the St. Catharines projects.

Working together

Although less common than in other parts of the world, public-private partnerships are not new to the United States. They have been around since the 1960s when they were used as an investment stimulator for inner-city structures. However, there has been little attention paid to P3 work other than public transportation and other fee-generating projects.

The partnership that is overseeing the hospitals’ construction, Plenary Heath Niagara, is made up of the Plenary Group, Borealis Infrastructure, PCL Constructors Canada, Johnson Controls, architects and interior designers.

As one of the partners, Australia’s Plenary Group has worked on many such partnerships. It specializes in building and operating facilities for health care, education, military and local government.

The company encourages a fully integrated approach to building development.

“For hospital construction, we bring in the best possible designer in the world, who has designed hospitals in international settings with the latest technologies and efficiencies,” said Graeme Silvera, Plenary Group vice president.

The group attributes its success in the close business channels they keep. Starting right from the beginning, they have a banker on board to discuss finances, a contractor, an architect, a maintenance person and an operations manager.

“All these people are at the table,” Silvera said. “We are the stopgap between the users and the design team.”

Ontario’s Niagara Health System is overseeing a $1.56 billion (Canadian) renovation and expansion of hospital facilities in St. Catharines.

Financial risks

Under these principles, an AFP transfers the financial risk often related with large-scale construction projects from the province and the city of St. Catharines to the private sector operator Plenary Health Niagara. From design to the delivery, Plenary Health Niagara will assume the risk of cost and time overruns. This is substantially different from traditional building practices in the United States, where public projects can develop into political nightmares.

In essence, the AFP model asks the contractor for a turn-key building health-care complex, except for two distinct features. First, during the transition between buildings, Plenary Health Niagara is responsible for the relocation of the patients and the administration. Secondly, the partnership is also accountable for the maintenance on the building’s hard facilities for 30 years.

The firms Silver, Thomas and Hanley; and B&H Architects combined efforts to design a state-of-the-art hospital that promises smart, environmentally friendly accommodations that will serve the city of St. Catharines as a healthy living and working environment. The architect’s design approach is to provide a “building solution that is appropriate, practical, flexible and innovative.”  Overall, the firm wishes “to create modern, welcoming places of healing that preserve the privacy and dignity of patients while supporting the delivery of superior care.”

The hospital will support 375 beds, of which 80 percent will be private, single-occupancy rooms. Niagara reports that this will be the most single-occupancy rooms than any other community hospital in Ontario.

The groundbreaking took place in April 2009 and the new complex is scheduled to open early in 2013. St. Catharines is the largest infrastructure public-private project currently under way in Ontario.

Construction of the new hospital will merge St. Catharines’ acute care and outpatient services in one location. Also included in the final design will be a family cancer center, cardiac and specialized mental health inpatient services.

This article and its images were supplied by EHG Duct. For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail