Increasing patient bed capacity was one of the main goals of the project.

Image courtesy of Grumman/Butkus Associates

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has scouted for opportunities to increase patient space capacity during the pandemic. One of those locations is the previously shuttered Westlake Hospital, Melrose Park, Ill.

The facility had been shut down for months when USACE commissioned a team to lead its reopening. The reopening team’s first step was to assess the facility’s existing infrastructure. 

“We just started digging for information,” says mechanical engineer Kevin Vander Klay with Grumman/Butkus Associates. “Drawings through the years had been scanned and loaded, but some were mislabeled, some were missing and some were just wrong. Very few areas were properly documented.”

After its investigation of the main hospital and west building infrastructures, the team diagnosed the conditions, such as a cooling plant with three old chillers and only one functioning unit.

More than 200 members worked long hours, including nights, weekends and the Easter holiday to accomplish the mission. The design team was given about a week to devise a plan and create construction drawings. In addition to addressing heating and cooling plant issues, key objectives included maximizing patient beds; meeting targets for negative patient room pressurization; and providing robust medical gas infrastructure. 

As the uncertain trajectory of the pandemic unfolds, the Westlake facility has not yet been needed, but as infection rates increase in many regions, that could change at any moment.