Construction problems at UMH – Uvalde Leader News

Pete Luna|Leader-News
The front facade of the new Uvalde Memorial Hospital building, located at 1025 Garner Field Road. Patients and staff moved into the new building in March.

Potentially hazardous conditions caused by construction issues at the new Uvalde Memorial Hospital building, already occupied by hospital staff and patients, were reported at last week’s board meeting. Administration of Uvalde County Hospital.

Highlighted items include patient bathrooms that do not meet Americans with Disabilities Act measurement standards; wooden doors throughout the building that have no laminated gasket for infectious disease control; and an expansion joint in the floor that may not have been fully installed, Jeff Chittenden, senior technical director at architectural firm Perkins + Will, told the UCHA board on Tuesday.

The installation of the expansion joint is an ongoing problem that was discovered about eight or nine months ago, Chittenden explained.

“The reason it’s important is that it’s your fire barrier between level one and level two. If there’s no expansion joint and there’s there is fire or smoke, it moves to there,” Chittenden said.

“I had written a field observation report indicating that the expansion joint was not installed. The contractor said, “Okay, we know…” Chittenden said, adding that the contractor “really didn’t get it done in a timely manner.”

“They tried to insert it. In some places they had to tear up the walls, in some places they had to crawl into cavities to insert it properly,” he said, noting photographs were then taken of the installation.

“To date, we have not seen any documentation to show that the expansion joint was properly installed in the ground,” Chittenden continued.

The new hospital construction project is approaching what is known as the “substantial completion” phase. According to the American Institute of Architects Contract Database, Substantial Completion is the stage at which a project is deemed sufficiently complete and the owner can use it for its intended purpose.

Chittenden said this is also when the clock starts for warranty issues. He explained that the owner must accept the work before the architectural firm approves substantial completion, but that it was up to the owner to make the final decision.

Chittenden explained that Hoar [Construction Company] claims to have completed the installation of the expansion joint and sent photographs.

“We’re not sure it was all finished correctly, because they didn’t photograph it lengthwise across the building,” he said.

Director Kelly Faglie asked who was going to do the inspection and verify the installation, and UMH CEO Tom Nordwick asked what recourse was there if the construction company couldn’t prove the installation.

Chittenden said the company may conduct an on-site re-inspection.

“Quite frankly, we expected the contractors to document the work and they didn’t,” Chittenden said.

“At this point, we’ll have to go down and remove the cap, and look at the areas…that have been noted for issues before and see if there are still issues,” Chittenden said, and Nordwick agreed.

“If this is truly non-compliant,” Nordwick asked, “how significant is it from a monetary standpoint and should that impact substantial completion?”

“We would not occupy this building if it existed, if the fire and life safety inspector had been informed,” Nordwick said.

Chittenden explained that there are potentially three or four feet that may not have been fixed, and it’s in a rather “inaccessible” area.

“I think it would be safe to get down and lift high and look around to make sure it was set up correctly,” Chittenden said.

Chittenden also informed the board of other non-compliant areas, noting concerns about approval for substantial completion.

“We designed all of the restrooms to be ADA compliant, except for two,” Chittenden explained. “When we compiled the checklist, I measured all the rooms and discovered that a significant number of them did not have a toilet that was compliant in width. A lot of them are half an inch off,” he said.

“Upon inspection with the state ADA examiner, they may prove to be an acceptable tolerance.”

“In my view, these chambers, by being non-compliant, do not meet substantial completion,” Chittenden said.

He said the laminate doors throughout the building, also known as wooden doors, were also not installed according to the contract.

“During the checklist, I noticed that the edgebanding at the top of the doors was not there. There is nothing but particle board. Frosted [the construction company] said, and their submission shows, they sealed it, but that’s not what’s in the contract documents. The contract documents call for laminate at the top of the door and fixing them all at this point is a substantial amount of money,” Chittenden explained, adding that the contract was for every wooden door in the building.

“I still maintain that you need the laminate in areas where you have infection control issues because…particle board traps dust and breathes and laminate needs to be on all those doors,” Chittenden said.

Chittenden joined the meeting via teleconference. Chris Larson, owner’s representative at Next Inc., who also oversaw the construction project for the new building, was not present.

Jeff Light, vice president of Texas division operations for Hoar Construction, did not respond to a voicemail message left Thursday afternoon for further information.

Director Monica Gutierrez was not present at the meeting and Hector Gonzales attended part of the closed meeting in person and later joined the regular session in teleconference.

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