McCormick Convention Center Converted to COVID-19 Care Facility

With confirmed cases of COVID-19 at well over 30,000 in the state of Illinois, the majority of which are located in Chicago, The McCormick Place Convention Center has been converted into an Alternate Care Facility for patients who were formerly recovering at home but now need additional monitoring. In addition, the convention center will now provide a space for patients released from severe respiratory care hospitals to recover before going home. Having these beds available will relieve strain on local hospitals who are treating patients in critical care. The preparations to receive patients were made over a five-day span by Walsh Construction. The facility itself is being built in stages with up to 3,000 beds planned. As a subcontractor, The YMI Group is providing medical gas to the facility in Hall B for 750 patient beds.

The YMI Group worked closely with the USACE (United States Army Corps of Engineers) and the Walsh Construction team to deliver this large-scale project to prevent overcrowding in hospitals and provide the additional space necessary for care of COVID-19 patients.

Col. Aaron Reisinger, commander and district engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chicago Division, which is constructing the conversion in partnership with the Chicago Dept. of Public Health and other affiliated contractors, described the thought process behind construction by saying, “We are assuming that every patient in McCormick Place is COVID-19 positive, so it is being constructed as a COVID-19 positive alternate care facility.” Reisinger continued to describe how the convention center is well suited for this type of use due to the access points in the floor every 20-30 feet throughout the center “[…] where you have water, electric, sewage and IT.”

The convention center itself will not change much. The patients being treated at McCormick Place will predominantly not require oxygen. Two halls were fitted with cubicles serving as rooms with beds for patients who are no longer in need of intensive medical care. Each cubicle will have a privacy curtain in the front, a bed, a chair, and a lamp for each patient. Patients are able to call for help, and nurse stations will be nearby. Rooms will have typical shower or bathroom areas for privacy. The third hall, Hall B, will also be outfitted to receive patients, but the severity of symptoms among patients being treated will vary by hall and location within the convention center.

Walsh Construction Group vice president of health care Tom Caplis tasked The YMI Group outfitting Hall B with Oxygen, Medical Vacuum to 750 patient beds and the Acute beds also added Medical Air.  The YMI Group working closely with USACE/Walsh/ESD/Praxair installed a bulk Oxygen tank farm in less than 7 days.  With almost 70,000 lineal feet of medical gas piping and over 15,000 brazed joints, our pipefitters worked around the clock to get this ready for patient use our deadline was April 24, 2020, we were certified on by an independent third party on April 22, 2020.  A new Medical Air compressor was installed to provide medical air to the acute patient beds.  A quad Vacuum air compressor was installed to provide vacuum to each of the 750 beds.  Both of these skids were housed in a temporary building built by Walsh Construction in less than two days.  Normally these types of equipment take 4-6 weeks to procure, we had less than 3 weeks to be operational.  A headwall is placed inside of each one of these tents. These patients [in Hall B] will be the highest acuity, so they will need oxygen” as well as a negative air-pressure environment.

In lieu of using bottled oxygen for patients that need it, a Oxygen bulk storage tank with a backup is being placed on Hall B’s loading dock with hard piping. This will allow for the estimated amount of necessary oxygen to be brought into the center independent of McCormick Place’s existing systems.

The YMI Group was brought in to provide All entire medical gas system to the facility. Numerous subcontractors were also brought in as they became available to provide additional support.  The standalone HVAC, electrical, mechanical, and medical gas systems were designed in under 48 hours. The need for medical gas piping was based on numerous meetings to determine average potential oxygen use per patient and additional criteria outlined.

The Walsh Construction Group team supported by Stantec Architects and Environmental Systems Design MEP, issued a Design Narrative from which The YMI Group was able to size, design, and complete the BIM (Building Information Model) drawings process for the layout of piping, oxygen bulk storage tank farm, medical vacuum and medical air skids, medical gas wiring to zone valve boxes, area alarms, and master alarm panels.

In addition, the facility needed to be equipped with medical grade air and a medical vacuum to provide air to this standard. The YMI Group worked with AMICO for the skids, Praxair for oxygen bulk storage, ARTEC Environmental for medical gas system verification and certification of the complete medical gas installation. HUEN Electric completed the medical gas alarm wiring, and Vader Electric completed the power to The YMI Group’s vacuum and medical air skids.

At a news conference after touring the hospital, Governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker said of the facility built at McCormick Place, “I didn’t know you could build something like that in a short time frame” Countless firms, all the trade unions, organizations, and engineers came together to create this project on a very short and strict time frame, and The McCormick Place Convention Center is fully equipped to manage a wide variety of COVID-19 patients separated by case severity.

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