Care First, Jails Last: Restorative Care Villages
In Los Angeles County, thousands suffering from mental illness and homelessness cycle in and out of a jail system that’s ill-equipped to help them recover. When recent studies revealed that over half could be safely treated in a community setting if given the right support, LA County changed its approach towards behavioral health: Care First, Jails Last.
They’re doing it through new Restorative Care Villages, and Abbott Construction was hired to build one of the first at Olive View UCLA Medical Center. The County chose to fast-track this project through modular construction, also making it one of the first of its kind. As design-builder, AbbottGo to https://www.abbottconstruction.com/ led everything from conception through completion.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
The new village is all about early care, an open door to anyone experiencing any level of mental illness. Its goal is to stop the common cycle of homelessness, hospitalization, and jail associated with mental health challenges—and establish an achievable plan for healing. The village includes:
- One 10,000sf, steel-framed Mental Health Urgent Care to stabilize patients and develop a plan of recovery
- One 10,000sf, steel-framed Wellness Center for outpatient services
- One 18,000sf, modular Recuperative Care Center for post-acute recovery
- Five modular residential buildings for transitional and focused care, at 47,000sf and 80 beds total.
Working like life-sized LEGO bricks, the modules were 12ft by 12ft, with lengths up to 51ft. They were manufactured off-site, transported on semi-trucks, craned in place, and finished on-site by trade partners.
“With 8 buildings, 132 total modular units, and traditional steel construction, all built on an active and very old hospital campus, there was a ton at stake,” says Abbott project superintendent Clay Hubbell. “It was one of the largest public modular projects in LA County history, and the County wanted it completed and ready for occupancy by fall 2021. It was a tall order.”
UP FOR A CHALLENGE
Beyond the project’s overall complexity, specific challenges quickly stacked up.
- Modular management. Nearly 30% of the modular units arrived on-site incomplete. The Abbott team worked closely with the modular company to identify the issues, prevent replication, and negotiate responsibility for the associated costs. This hands-on approach protected the County from about $1.4M in extra costs, while ensuring the high-quality outcome that the community deserved.
- Site logistics. With semi-trucks and crane costing multiple thousands per day, the orderly placement of modules posed one of the biggest risks to budget and schedule. The Abbott team put an emphasis on constant communication, protecting the critical path to achieve an average of five modules placed per day.
- Underground logistics. With no existing power or sewer lines at the residential site, Abbott tunnelled new lines under a flood control channel governed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. After an extremely detailed review process, boring took about five days, with sewer and electrical tie-ins taking just over three weeks.
Did You Know?
This project required 1,765 inspections, some of which were done virtually during the pandemic
PART OF THE SOLUTION
Green elements are featured throughout the campus, from solar panels to reflective asphalt parking, and especially showcased in the LEED Gold Recuperative Care Center. The project achieved high marks on energy reduction, with a 100% electric facility. It also features an efficient VRF system for cooling, versus a typical rooftop package unit.
Abbott sustainability expert and project manager Teresa Fait attributes the project’s success to teamwork. “There wasn’t one person who could fully take lead,” she says. “We knew we had to divide and conquer. Of all the projects I’ve worked on, this one was the greatest example of teamwork.”
Despite the challenges, the village was fully completed on budget and 10 days ahead of schedule. Even better, several buildings were turned over multiple weeks in advance. The staggered release helped the County get a head start on opening services to the community. “We refused to fail,” says project manager Jen Sliwa. Also a volunteer with local homeless services, one reason she joined Abbott was the chance to build this project. “The LA housing crisis is important to me. I’m honored to feel like I could be part of the solution.”
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Client: Los Angeles County
Architect: SWA Architects
Engineer: IMEG, Fuscoe, ISE, RPM
Delivery Method: Design/Build
Completed: Fall 2021
Certification: LEED Gold