A new rehabilitation center is being built at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. The rehab center will provide a much-needed service to veterans, enabling them to continue their rehabilitation journeys and fill the halls with hope, determination, and inspiration.
The Charleston District has partnered with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to build the state-of-the-art $13.8M rehabilitation center. The District is scheduled to turn the project over before the end of the year to the VA where they will commence activation/outfitting to prepare it to treat new patients in the near future.
The two-story facility rehabilitation facility will include a large physical therapy clinic, a gym, exam rooms, treatment rooms and offices, and other support spaces. The total gross area will be 16,729 square feet with 10,302 square feet on the first floor and 6,427 square feet on the second floor.
According to Robert Sorenson, Interagency and International Support project manager, “Everything has been going smoothly with no critical path impacting issues.”
However, with a big project like this, there were challenges to overcome.
“We had to overcome some significant obstacles early on that created significant threats to a successful outcome but with a strong SAC team and partnership with VA Engineering and Medical Center Leadership we were able to develop and implement some innovative solutions to avoid major cost and schedule impacts.”
“It’s always a challenge when working in this environment with another agency, who provided the design through their own contracting channels and then USACE contracted out the construction,” said Addison Layfield, the Charleston District contracting branch chief and procuring officer for this project.
Layfield, a 13-year veteran with USACE, added, “It’s a lot of different groups of people that must work together to be successful.”
Sorenson, who was the assistant chief engineer with the VA Hospital in Charleston prior to coming to the Charleston District in 2020, understands both agency missions and this led to a smoother project and a great partnership.
“This project has worked out well for me since I have a long history of working at the VA,” he said. “It’s been great working with the Corps putting my VA background and relationships to effective use,” he said.
From an engineering perspective, what makes this project different?
According to architect and project technical lead, John Bell Hines, “The importance of this design cannot be overstated as it enables recovery by engaging our body and mind’s natural evolutionary healing ability.”
“The center of the buildings design is the large two-story exercise area that is open to the exterior views and natural light,” said Bell. “Our body’s ability to heal when exposed to a healthy stress-free environment has been proven beyond any doubt.”
According to Hines, his role in the engineering division is best described as a design quality assurance. “Quality is a simple word that has many dimensions such as special quality, functional quality, structural quality, and finish quality,” he said.
The most rewarding aspect is knowing the new rehab facility will improve the help that veterans will receive and deserve, and Hines has an excellent background and personal experience.
With seven years as a project manager for Wounded Warrior related projects at Bethesda Military Hospital in DC and 25 years of private practice, Hines is in tune with rehabilitation. However, it’s a recent accident where he was hit by a car and needed nine months of rehabilitation therapy that gives him the clearest picture.
“The actual treatment is just one aspect of recovery,” he said. “Recovery involves both the mental, emotional, and physical components. There are many ways the environment where therapy is provided can enhance or even stop the success of therapy.”
“This facility makes a huge difference in the betterment of a veteran’s life,” said Hines.
The walls, halls and rooms within this facility will soon be filled with veterans’ inspirational stories and the VA’s team of doctors, nurses, specialists who will help them in their rehabilitation journeys.