A lot of things in our day-to-day work look different now than they did a year ago. We’ve all spent some amount of time working from home, video call meetings have become the new normal, and we wonder when we’ll be back to shaking hands. But in addition to these changes that we’ve all experienced, each business, community, and family has faced a unique set of challenges and deviances from what we would consider to be “business as usual”.
At BHB, we’ve spent the summer helping our clients pivot as needed and strategize how to proceed with projects that may have faced financing or construction delays. We’ve also been able to help out a handful of clients with projects directly related to the pandemic. Whether preventative or reactionary, some of our private and public clients alike have completed construction projects with a quick turnaround in order to adjust to new needs and/or increased demands.
With perhaps the most obvious reasons to expand during this time, our healthcare clients have faced the need to grow their capacity for COVID-19 patients. We have worked with one North Texas hospital to transform a total of about 60 existing patient rooms to house these highly contagious patients. Formerly neutral pressure rooms in which air can easily pass in and out, our mechanical engineers made modifications to the HVAC system to convert them into negative pressure rooms. This rebalancing prevents air from seeping out of patient rooms into common areas, limiting the spread of virus particles to the corridor. This client acted quickly; the project started at the end of March and our team completed the design work within a week.
Around that same time, on the municipal side, our civil and electrical engineers worked with Tarrant County to preemptively design an alternative option for housing patients. Although to date it has not been constructed, the idea was to provide isolation housing in RVs on a previously empty lot. The asphalt parking lot hadn’t been developed but did have utilities. The proposed site work would provide water, sewer, and electric hookups for 20 RVs. Our mechanical and electrical engineers also assisted Tarrant County to select portable HVAC equipment and a generator to provide cooling and standalone power for testing tents. This solution allows the tents to be deployed in areas of need where there may not be access to local power while maintaining a more comfortable environment for staff.
Now, think back to early this summer when most cities were under lockdown–did you have trouble getting groceries? If so, you weren’t alone; in addition to a rush on many pantry and toiletry staples, stores were faced with an astronomical increase in demand for delivery and pick-up services. One of our local grocery store clients discovered in April that they did not have the capacity to serve the number of customers now ordering groceries for curbside pick-up. Designed in just a couple of days and constructed within the month, this pick-up area was expanded from 14 parking spots to a total of 35. Because of the location of these new spots on top of an existing channel, our civil engineers completed a hydraulics study and analysis followed by channel improvements to minimize flood risk. As a result, the store and neighboring properties are provided with improved drainage. In addition to re-striped pavement and pedestrian improvements for safety, the design included a retaining wall with which our structural team assisted.
These projects are just a few examples of work we wouldn’t have predicted a year ago. Which leaves us wondering: what curveballs could be thrown our way in the next year? Whatever it may be, our multidisciplinary team of MEP, civil, and structural engineers are ready and able to partner with our clients to meet the needs of their communities and overcome any obstacles along the way.