A $7.3 million central plant with N+1 redundancy on the chillers, generators, and boilers in a small hospital in rural southwest Georgia - a dream? The dream of Colquitt Regional Medical Center (CRMC) and its director of facility operations, Bob Howe and his assistant, Rick Stolarski, is now a reality.

"It has been a long, tough road to get this plant to where it is today. The challenges that faced the design and construction team were numerous and required all of our combined talents and expertise," Howe said. "I wanted to step out of the box and change the overall approach to the project and methodologies used."

Located in Moultrie, GA, the CRMC had been experiencing increased demand for services and Howe saw the potential for more efficiently and effectively providing such by redesigning/reconfiguring some of the existing facilities and equipment. Original estimates for a new plant ranged between $12 and $14 million. The center's administration directed the design and construction team to reduce overall project cost. Howe accomplished the reduction in cost by changing from a traditional design, construction, and bid process to a team design and negotiated contract price approach.

The old 600-hp boilers serving this Georgia hospital were operating at about 70% efficiency and were oversized. The new boilers are 200 hp each, operating at 83% efficiency on natural gas, and 86% efficiency on fuel oil, resulting in an estimated 50% electrical savings.

Saving $6 million

The concept design was based on a totally separate structure some 250 ft away from the existing medical center, connected by an underground piping and conduit "umbilical" cord.

Phase I would encompass the construction of the new plant. In Phase II, the existing plant would be demolished in part and renovated after the new plant and systems were online. The final engineered design/construction documents and a negotiated guaranteed maximum price contract was signed with Brasfield & Gorrie at a cost of $7,370,356. The team approach had achieved a reduction of $6 million in the total project cost. The entire boiler, chiller, and normal and emergency electrical systems had to be replaced while the existing ones remained operational. The HVAC and electrical systems were part of the original 1974 construction, well beyond their normal expected operating life. The existing central plant consisted of two 1965 vintage 600-hp, dual-fuel boilers, producing 125-lb steam. The system fed, among others things, a full laundry operation and a 650-ton, single-stage absorption chiller from 1970. A second 600-ton electric centrifugal chiller rounded out the chiller plant. There were approximately 125 tons of standalone DX systems serving the medical center.

The team decided to design the new plant with two new 500-ton electric centrifugal chillers (0.58 kW/ton) and relocate the existing 600-ton chiller. The total anticipated load, once the old DX systems were changed out, would be about 850 tons. The master plan called for 100,000 sq ft of additional space to be added over the next 10 years. Total peak cooling load will be approximately 1,300 tons. The existing equipment will be changed to run 500-ton and 800-ton chillers to meet peak demand with the remaining 500-ton capacity chiller as a backup.

Going with local talent

Hurst Boiler and Welding Company, Inc., which is headquartered less than 10 miles from the medical center, was selected as the manufacturer of the boilers, deaerator, and surge tank systems. "We saw this project as providing a unique challenge to showcase not only the advanced technology of our equipment and engineering capabilities, but as a true opportunity to participate in a state-of-the-art health care facility that would serve as a model for taking the entire industry into the future," said Jeff Hurst, Hurst vice president of sales.

The old 600-hp boilers were operating at about 70% efficiency and were oversized. The new Hurst boilers are 200 hp each, operating at 83% efficiency on natural gas, and 86% efficiency on fuel oil. In addition, VSDs were used for the burners and the boiler feed pumps, and all of the motors are premium efficiency.

Big electrical savings

Electrical savings are nearly 50% over the previous system. The new boilers use state-of-the-art controls, which have effectively eliminated the use of linkage-type fuel and air-ratio controls. The new Hurst solid-state control systems use servomotor-driven fuel and air control valves.

The central plant was recently completed and is now in service. And more to the point, the final GMP contract amount was negotiated to $7,370,356 - some $6 million under the estimates. "Ultimately, it took a fresh look at the design-build process, the project team and the many opportunities for creative project management to bring Colquitt Regional's new plant project to a successful and economical conclusion," said Howe.