The Plaza at Washoe
(Reprinted from the Nevada Construction Review, 2001)
By Murray W. Wolf
Since the last medical office building project was completed in 1994, the Washoe Medical Center Campus needed modern, conveniently located office space for both patients and physicians. According to Stephen J. Tapogna, corporate director for Washoe Health System, that was the primary purpose of building The Plaza at Washoe.
“Our first goal,” Tapogna said, “was to ensure the new building provided the physicians with a very modern and convenient place to practice, linking the hospital information system for results reporting directly to their offices. We also wanted to provide some services offered by the hospital, such as imaging and laboratory services, in the building to make it convenient for the patient population.
“To do that, we dedicated more than 200 parking spaces immediately adjacent to the building at ground level for patients, as well as a skybridge connecting directly into the four-level parking structure, called Washoe Park [which in turn connects both the medical office building and the hospital].
“The pedestrian bridge across to the hospital was a neat idea – and it turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be,” he said. After being assembled at the ground level its pieces were just lifted into place.
Bob Rosenthal, AIA, president of Pacific Medical Buildings (PMB), the facility’s developer/manager, said what makes The Plaza at Washoe medical office building unique is that Washoe Professional Center, Inc. put up a 55-year land lease equivalent to the amount of cash PMB invested in the joint venture known as The Plaza at Washoe, L.L.C “It’s a true partnership. We’re 50/50 owners.” The project financing also includes an $11 million construction loan from lender City National Bank of Beverly Hills, Calif. PMB was then hired by the LLC to develop and subsequently manage the building.
The project was set up in a way that minimizes the medical center’s risk while it still retains ownership of the land. In addition, “PMB guaranteed the construction cost to the LLC, guaranteed its financing and guaranteed any operating losses for the first operating year. That essentially gave the hospital a risk-free real estate development project and yet it still got real estate development yields, which are generally higher than other yields,” Rosenthal said.
The four-story facility also helps the hospital expand its services into an older section of Reno and economically rejuvenate that area.
Locating it on the medical center campus will also improve the efficiency of the practices housed there. Physicians don’t have to spend time commuting to the hospital and can use that time to see patients. In addition, the close connection to the hospital permits them to keep a close eye on patients. For example, an obstetrics/gynecology (OB/GYN) practice physician could reach a patient going into labor at the hospital in approximately three minutes. “It’s efficient for the physician and it’s better care for the patients,” Rosenthal said.
Hospital services will account for approximately 15 percent of the building space. These include imaging services, wound care, health enhancement services such as diabetes education, and outpatient dialysis services (which are currently under construction). Hospital officials also fortunately had the foresight to install a pneumatic tube system that not only hooks into the hospital’s system to speed up laboratory results, but can also be expanded as needed. Leased space services include offices for the University of Nevada Medical School, general practice physicians, internal medicine practices, neurosurgery, urology, rheumatology, ophthalmology, general surgery and vascular surgery practices, OB/GYN services and pediatric cardiology services.
John Hussey, AIA, director of architecture for PMB, said the facility features large, column-free spaces that made it easier to design large and efficient office suites with centralized nursing stations and work areas surrounded by examination rooms.
“The building is well-lit and features beautiful views of the Sierras from the windows around its perimeter. It’s light, airy and comfortable, yet professional,” said Tapogna.
A constant power supply in a medical setting is vital and a redundant mechanical design consisting of four units was used in this facility. If one goes down, the others pick up the slack.
Use of low-emissivity (low-e) glass on the east, west and south sides of the building is not only thermally efficient, but filters out ultraviolet (UV) rays as well. Utilizing a UL-rated floor/ceiling assembly to protect the deck and structure above was not only cost-efficient, but also saved the time usually taken up by treating the ceilings with fireproof coating. Upgrading the building to 3,000-amp service may have cost more initially, but it gives the owners a more versatile, efficient building for long-term use as well as the ability to increase electrical capacity to accommodate expansion or new equipment needs.
Jarett Rosenau, project manager for the project’s construction manager/general contractor, Clark & Sullivan Constructors, Inc., said using the efficient exterior insulation finish system (EIFS), consisting of more than 200 panels that snapped together like jigsaw puzzle pieces, went quickly.
Open communication and planning ahead kept the project on track. “I think we had very few major problems on the job,” Rosenau said. “I think we really programmed it a lot and were very detailed in the design process. We started at the beginning with budgetary controls. PMB had a good understanding of where the budget needed to be. We did a lot of different value engineering things throughout the design/build process.”
Hussey said working together helped the project team deal with all project challenges that arose. “Our contracting team contributed quite a bit to the success of the project by working hard and in going the extra mile for some of the tenants.”
Rosenau said the weekly meetings of the project team helped resolve issues in a timely manner and facilitated a first-class construction job. “Overall, the building is of good quality and good design that will be appreciated by the owners and tenants alike.”
Hussey said the project provides the hospital with “the newest [medical office] building in Reno and positions them well against competing hospitals in the area.”
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