National Naval Medical Center: Capt. Steve Hamer, Commanding Officer, Officer-In-Charge of Construction Bethesda

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In July 2008, President George W. Bush, Defense Department officials and Wounded Warriors broke ground on the future Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda. Since then, the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) and Naval Facilities Engineering Command have been diligently working to expand facilities to integrate  NNMC and Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) at the NNMC  in Bethesda.

Capt. Steve Hamer, commanding officer, Officer-In-Charge of Construction Bethesda, outlined the numerous projects going on at the NNMC campus. The main projects are a 515,000 square foot outpatient facility and a 162,000 square foot inpatient facility, which includes a new emergency department and intensive care unit. Both of these projects have been completed. In addition, about 390,000 square feet in the existing hospital are being renovated. Other projects include a new facility to house  wounded warriors, a dining hall, and administrative offices; a complex with administrative offices and a fitness center to accommodate the increase in personnel; as well as a multi-use parking garage. Capt. Hamer oversees all construction and at NNMC and Naval Support Activity Bethesda.

Capt. Hamer said the project has been going well so far, with many phases complete with minimal interruption to current operations as possible. He said the close communication between NNMC, WRAMC, Joint Task Force CapMed and OICC has been key.

“The hospital, their staff and personnel assigned to oversee the transition have a done a great job helping us understand what their needs are and will be,” he said. “We incorporate those needs into our design and schedule.”

JTF CapMed leads the way for the efficient consolidation and realignment of military healthcare in the national capital region. The JTF is working with the hospitals and OICC on this project to ensure the quality of patient care and construction are met.

Design elements for sustainability and flexibility

The medical facility’s new construction achieved a LEED gold certification on the buildings A and B projects.  The OICC team is working to include sustainability features that achieve at least the LEED silver certification standard. To do this the team focuses on high-efficiency lighting, heat recovery, recycling construction waste, landscaping that doesn’t require irrigation and other features.

Capt. Hamer said the construction team  is building flexibility into the design, by having areas designated as future use spaces. He also said they are outfitting some rooms to have uses that go beyond their original intent.

“You build a building with the intention that it’s going to last 50 years or more,” he said. “Our approach to patient care in that time frame can change. Our design has the ability to change to future needs and have the flexibility for different utility down the road.”

One example of the flexibility is five exam rooms in the emergency room can become additional trauma rooms as needed. The new facility also has offices and exam rooms that are interchangeable.

Overcoming challenges

The primary challenge is the size and complexity of this project and it is on a tight schedule to meet the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) deadline of September 2011. Capt. Hamer credits the design-build approach taken with contractors to allow for the ability to react to changes in the schedule, medical technology, or facility needs as they happen.

“The design staff is already on board throughout the project and helps us have rapid development and implementation of changes in the field,” he said. “When you have projects this size it is hard to anticipate all issues within construction. The design-build concept allows you to work out those issues without losing too much time on the overall schedule, rather than having to resolve all issues before you execute construction.”

Once complete, the facility will be one of the largest military healthcare facilities in the world.

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