Behind the Project: New Adult Mental Health and Addictions Facility
Recently we sat down with Belinda Wong, Associate, to talk about an interesting alternate delivery model project she’s worked on, the New Adult Mental Health and Addictions Facility in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Thanks so much for sitting down with us, Belinda. Tell us a bit about this project.
Belinda: Thanks so much for having me. Entuitive is the Structural Engineering and Building Envelope Consultant on the New Adult Mental Health and Addictions Facility, or NAMHAF, in St. John’s. The six-storey facility will be an addition to the Health Science Centre campus and will provide a 102-bed hospital, a 60-bed hostel to replace the Agnes Cowan Hostel, and a 1,000-car parking garage. Open and green spaces are an important requirement of the project, and, as such, the majority of patient and hostel rooms will receive direct daylight.
What is the delivery model for this project and what are the main considerations for that model?
Belinda: NAMHAF is a P3 project, a public-private partnership. P3s are typically used for large, public infrastructure projects in which a private sector consortium finances, delivers, and operates and maintains a project for 30 years. The leading government entity then pays back the consortium over a pre-determined number of years. On NAMHAF the team also includes B+H Architects, JHA, Marco/Cahill, and Plenary.
There are many different considerations for P3 projects but from an engineering perspective they can be categorized into the RFP stage and the execution stage.
RFP Pursuit Stage
During the RFP pursuit phase, the design is only brought up to a certain percentage, which informs the consortium’s bid. Entuitive’s engineering expertise and experience on P3s enables us to provide guidance on costing, design direction, and a high-performing envelope so that the team is able to commit to a budget and schedule that the bid is then based on.
Since the budget is fixed in advance, project team members must work together to deliver the project on time and on budget. A traditional delivery model progresses through different phases with the different consultants, but a P3 needs everyone on the same page very early on in the process. This requires deep collaboration and is what we love about P3s. The team works in parallel, which, in our opinion, drives a better design as it forces us to work out solutions at the same time as we strive towards the same schedule milestones and financial goals.
It sounds like this is a great process for ensuring the entire team understands each other and that all stakeholder needs are met. Can you tell us about some of the technical challenges on this project?
Belinda: Of course. The delivery of P3 projects is heavily focused on the fast-paced schedule. As a result, we are very sensitive to the efficiency of our processes. It is important that we consistently look for ways to improve. One of the main technical challenges on this project arose from the fact that this facility comprises thousands of steel beams to accommodate its complex geometry. That data had to be transferred from our engineering software to the BIM model and eventually to our contract documents. This would have taken our team a prohibitive number of hours as it’s usually a manual process.
Two members of our team, Somerset Jarvis and Andy Ion, helped to solve this challenge. They used a software called ISM, Integrated Structural Modelling, to read and locate all of the beam information in our design software and then automatically export the information to our BIM model. Using this process, 95% of all the beams successfully transferred, saving us countless hours of redundant work.
Wow, it’s that kind of innovative thinking that helps projects stay on a tight timeline!
Belinda: Absolutely. Another challenge was that due to the size of the project, our partners informed us that the availability of trades in St. John’s would be a limiting factor. Together we planned ahead, a staple of P3s as we’ve been discussing, and focused on accelerating the design schedule to provide as much time as possible for the shipping of materials from Quebec to Newfoundland.
What was your favourite part of the project?
Belinda: The collaboration and developing new relationships. P3s require such deep collaboration. It’s a really great process that I appreciated and valued throughout this project. I think because we are all working together at the same time towards the same goal, it helps to build trust and produce strong relationships.
As well, this job is very meaningful to me personally. My husband is a community nurse and is deeply passionate about mental health. His work focuses on patients with schizophrenia. He’s provided community-level treatment with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and has worked at the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health’s (CAMH) inpatient units. He has opened my eyes to how much timely upstream healthcare can impact patient outcomes. Historically physical health has taken precedence over mental health and there has been a much-needed paradigm shift towards acknowledging the importance of mental health. His passion and empathy have truly inspired me to take this cause to heart.
When I found out I had the opportunity to work on NAMHAF, I was so excited! I felt it was an opportunity for me to contribute in my own way. Prior to this facility, community members would have had to travel long distances to seek the treatment they needed. Now NAMHAF can be that hub that provides healthcare treatment and support close to home. It’s a true honor to be part of a project like this.
Thanks so much for talking to us about the New Adult Mental Health and Addictions Facility project, Belinda! We appreciate your time and passion for this project.
If you’d like to learn more about this project, reach out to Belinda Wong.
Rendering courtesy B+H Architects.