Construction lawyers like me are used to encountering construction projects gone bad, and sometimes, headed directly toward litigation. In this column, I wanted to focus on a large-scale recent project in Maine that was an enormous success: the new Maine General hospital. I will highlight two of the features that made this project stand out among others, and the importance of the success of this large scale health care facility for the state going forward.
Most people know that this project was a massive one, covering over half a million square feet with almost 200 patient rooms. It contains a helipad, a large meeting space, and 10 operating rooms. It also was the largest construction project the state of Maine has ever seen, and thus was an obvious challenge on the front end. Despite the massive nature of the project, however, the state should be proud that the vast majority of construction participants on the project – 97 percent – were companies that reside in the state, who went on to successfully build a beautiful and environmentally sustainable health care facility.
There were two major distinctions about this project that everyone in the industry should know. First, the project used a delivery system called Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). IPD forces all of the project participants to work together, instead of the traditional design / bid / build process where the architect designs the project, the owner agrees to the design, and then the contractor and subcontractors construct the building. IPD forces teamwork because (just as the name says) it forces the project delivery to be integrated between the project participants from the inception of the design. Everyone on the project shares information in a much more transparent fashion, and therefore they also share in the rewards and risks of coming in under or over budget.
Second, Maine General reported just this past month that it achieved Gold LEED status for the hospital, the first such award for a health care facility in Maine. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, requires that very tight standards for sustainability be achieved in order for a project to be awarded the designation. Points are awarded for different sustainability measures, and the hospital achieved enough points for the coveted gold status. Among the features at Maine General that got it to the finish line are interior motion lighting that turns on and off when people enter and depart a room, efficient use of heating and cooling systems, and a storm water system that recovers rainwater for use in the building and in retention ponds.
Maine has not seen many projects on a scale this large. But the success of the project demonstrates that Maine construction companies can embrace new forms of project delivery to complete a large-scale project that is environmentally sustainable for the future. Particularly in the health care sector, with increased need for projects because of our aging population nationally and in Maine, we can expect to see more cutting edge health care construction in the years to come. The Maine General project demonstrates that the design professionals and contractors in Maine are ready to build as many high-end health care facilities as the state needs going forward.