ST. GEORGE, Utah - Lying in the high desert area of southern Utah at the nexus of Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, the historic city of St. George is experiencing unprecedented growth as both retirees and young working families discover its many opportunities. In a short five-year period in the 1990s, the city's population grew a staggering 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 will occupy its new 400,000-square-foot home, a hospital and medical office building that will introduce advanced trauma care and tertiary care services, such as open-heart surgery and neurosurgery.

The mechanical engineering firm that is providing consulting-specifying engineering services on this project has made indoor air quality (IAQ) one of its top priorities.

The Dixie Regional Medical Center is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.

Very Specialized Discipline

Under the direction of John D. Frank, P.E., vice president of Van Boerum & Frank Associates Inc. (VBFA), Salt Lake City, Jeff Watkins, P.E., served as project engineer. VBFA is considered one of the leading mechanical engineering firms serving the health care industry in Utah, with a portfolio that includes Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, McKay Dee Hospital, and Holy Cross Hospital.

Watkins, a principal of the firm, explained that designing an HVAC system for a health care facility is a very specialized discipline with its own set of guidelines and code requirements.

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

Since the climate in St. George is semi-arid, with summer time temperatures averaging between 95 degrees to 101 degrees F, HVAC systems must be designed to maintain a minimum of 30 percent humidification. With the humidification equipment constantly introducing moisture into the air stream through the air handlers, Dixie Regional Medical Center needed a duct liner that is 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.

The duct liner chosen is ToughGardâ„¢ R Duct Liner with Enhanced Surface, by CertainTeed Corp. The mechanical contractor, Western Sheet Metal, Salt Lake City, installed 300,000 square feet of the rotary-based fiberglass duct liner, designed to provide acoustical and thermal performance. According to the manufacturer, its recently introduced Enhanced Surface on the fiberglass duct liner "is more moisture-resistant than other fiber glass duct liners and has proven in tests to be approximately 40 percent more moisture resistant than the previous generation of ToughGard liners."

The new surface is designed to help alleviate some specifiers' concerns about moisture that may enter a duct system due to improperly sealed duct joints or poorly installed and maintained duct systems. The air steam surface contains an EPA-registered antimicrobial agent, designed to reduce the potential of microbial growth that may affect this product.

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

A Western Sheet Metal worker fabricates sections of duct and installs fiberglass duct liner.

Historic Project

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, is estimated to cost more than $100 million and will be the largest construction project in the history of Washington County. It will feature 108 patient rooms, a 24-bed intensive care unit (ICU), a 30-bed emergency department, and eight ORs. Once the doors have opened, renovations will begin at the current campus, which will become a specialty hospital for women's and children's care. Taking into consideration 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.

Okland Construction Company, with offices in Salt Lake City and Tempe, Ariz., serves 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 is Ashen + Allen, headquartered in San Francisco. Western Sheet Metal is subcontractor to J & S Mechanical Contractors, Draper, Utah.

Design And Construction Expertise

VBFA is responsible for the design and specification of not only the HVAC system, but also plumbing, fire protection, and medical gases systems. The new mechanical system comprises three chillers in the central plant, with environmentally friendly R-134a refrigerant and total tonnage of chilled water at 1,930 tons. One chiller is on emergency power in order to provide cooling in emergency situations. 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 of air to 85,000 cfm.

The VAV reheat system consists of medium-pressure ductwork, with air passing through the VAV boxes, and then dropping to low pressure, all designed to provide 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 duct work in 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," he 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."

Publication date: 12/15/2003