Poor economy keeping Wishard project costs down

Lower commodity prices and cheaper bids submitted by contractors hungry for work are helping managers of the new Wishard Hospital project keep construction costs under budget so far.

With nearly 20 percent of construction bids awarded, accounting for more than $113 million of the entire $606 million construction package, the project is running about $10 million under budget, said Matt Gutwein, president and CEO of Health & Hospital Corp. of Marion County, which owns the hospital.

“We’re not doing a victory dance yet,” Gutwein said. “But so far we are very pleased with the aggressiveness and the competiveness of the bids we’ve awarded."

Gutwein provided the update at Indianapolis City Market on Wednesday morning, about a year after Wishard officials kicked off their campaign for a new hospital. He said the project is proceeding on time and under budget.

The poor economy has dramatically slowed construction activity in central Indiana, which is creating more competition and driving down costs. Likewise, Gutwein said, prices for commodities such as steel and copper are “highly favorable.”

Gutwein plans to have all bids awarded by January.

The new Wishard will feature an 11-story hospital tower adjoining a 200-room ambulatory care building, and a 90-bed emergency department with an adult trauma center. A faculty and administration building and a 2,700-car parking garage also are part of the project.

The 1.2-million-square-foot, 327-bed hospital will be built on 37 acres at the west end of the IUPUI campus. The hospital corporation exercised a land-swap option in November with Indiana University.

The agreement called for Wishard to take control of the hospital site immediately, and then gradually cede ownership of its current hospital site over the next four years.

The land Wishard received contained the old Larue Carter psychiatric hospital facility and the former State Department of Health building, both of which have been torn down.

Old brick and cement from the two buildings was ground up and will be used to fill areas of the construction site, Gutwein said.

Besides awarding demolition bids, Wishard has granted others for utility and foundation work, which includes digging 700 holes as deep as 60 feet to set the cast pilings for the foundation.  

Site and grade preparation will involve raising the land on which the hospital will be built by six feet to help protect against potential flooding.

A bid also has been awarded to Minnesota-based Enclos Corp. to manufacture and apply the façade, or “skin,” to the building. Enclos performed the same work for the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, the tallest twin buildings in the world.

Project managers are ahead of goals to award 15 percent of the work to minorities, 8 percent to women, and 3 percent to veterans. Altogether, the three groups have received nearly 31 percent of all contracts.

Wishard is aiming to achieve the “silver” designation from the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program.

Health & Hospital Corp. is using $661 million in bonds to help finance the $754 million hospital, slated to open at the end of 2013.

Mayor Greg Ballard joined Wishard leaders Wednesday morning to report on the progress of the new hospital.


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