Yountville – Of the veterans, by the veterans, for the veterans.
The fingerprints of United States military veterans can and will be found all over the new $269 million, 240-bed skilled nursing facility and memory care center at the Veterans Home of California-Yountville, from the project’s conception to its eventual occupancy.
- Leadership at the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet), the vast majority of whom are veterans themselves, long ago began planning to build a new skilled nursing (SNF) facility to replace the now 90-year-old Holderman Hospital. Secretary Imbasciani, Deputy Secretary Coby Petersen, Veterans Homes, and Yountville Home Administrator Lisa Peake, all experienced lengthy military careers before working at CalVet.
“It is right and fitting that veterans are so involved in the planning and building of this facility,” said CalVet Secretary Vito Imbasciani MD, who spent 27 years as an Army surgeon and deployed four times to the Gulf Wars. “As a veteran myself, improving the care for our veteran residents and their spouses, and securing the future of the oldest and largest veterans home in the country are an honor, a privilege and an absolute must. I know all of the veterans involved in this project feel the same way.”
- Veteran residents at the Home provided input during the conceptual and planning processes. More than 600 veterans live at the Yountville Home. Many of them require skilled nursing or memory care, or will someday.
- Several key people from Rudolph and Sletten, Inc., the general contractor, served in the military including Air Force veteran Jeff Russell, Vice President Healthcare; and U.S. Marine Corps veterans Christian Lopez, Project Manager, and Keith Peterka, Senior MEP Project Engineer.
Russell spent countless hours contacting Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBEs) firms to find DVBE firms that are great fits for the project and to ensure the project exceeded the five percent requirement for DVBE contractors on the project.
“It took months to track down the right people,” Russell said, who relied on a statewide database maintained by the Department of General Services to find vetted subcontractors. “There were hundreds – maybe thousands of names.”
He viewed their websites, and the firm hired 11 veteran-owned construction companies as subcontractors that collectively will earn more than $13 million of the $269 million overall cost. (Visit Vimeo for a short video showcasing representatives.)
Russell finds being involved in the Yountville SNF project truly inspirational.
“When you step onto the campus, it’s like stepping into history,” Russell said. “It’s our sacred duty and honor not only to take care of the people (veterans), but also that place.”
Erecting a state-of-the-art SNF at a place with such history and significance is an arduous process. The SNF will be built on the site of the old Memorial Grove, which included trees planted as remembrances of wars, along with monuments and benches dedicated to Home residents dating back to 1928. It also was the site of the Hostess House, built in 1950 and where guests once stayed while visiting their veteran relatives at the Home. All of that history needed to be recorded and catalogued by the state as well. The contractor is salvaging the wood from those trees, and will use it in features throughout the new building.
Some pieces of wood will be used to build the time capsule that will be placed after the building opens in early 2024. And the monuments will be relocated to another memorial area on the hill above the new hospital.
The design-build concept, in which the designing and construction elements are done under a single contract, paired Rudolph and Sletten with CannonDesign. They worked in unison with DGS and Project Director Michael Siemering to check all of the boxes of what the state and CalVet needed and wanted.
“I’ve done a lot of complicated builds,” Siemering said. “This was by far the most complicated system yet. It was a challenge to take what CannonDesign came up with, drill down with what the State Historic Preservation Office came up with and the challenges CannonDesign had to address. We protected the environment.”
Adding to the complexity: the COVID-19 pandemic, which compelled all of the principals to rely on meeting remotely for the vast majority of their planning and development conversations as well as internal meetings within each entity.
“This team has gotten done what we had to do,” Siemering said.
The finished product will be a five-story, 317,000-square-foot SNF that matches the Spanish Colonial exteriors of the campus’ other major buildings. The new SNF will offer single-occupancy rooms, bathrooms in each, dining and social areas on each floor, with a main dining room, shops and even a scooter repair shop on the first floor.
Designers integrated elements that address future pandemic infection control, with the Home’s aging population in mind.
“In a facility to house seniors, we wanted to make it a home-like environment, but also super safe,” said David Hunt, Healthcare Practice Leader and Principal for CannonDesign. “We included a lighting system inside the duct work that kills COVID pathogens, and radiant floor heat rather than distributing air that spreads germs.”
None of the building’s ventilation will involve recirculated air, Hunt said. “One-hundred percent of the air will be from the outside.”
Temperature readings will determine the interior lighting system, adjusting it to the natural daylight that enters the building.
Each floor will be identical to the one above or below, minimizing construction costs and making the building more efficient for residents and staff alike, he said.
It also will include a morning garden on the east side and an evening garden on the west, and the upper floors will offer spectacular views of the Napa Valley.
And finally, they designed the building to be constructed out of precast concrete that can resist damage from wildfires like the ones that plagued the Napa Valley and Sonoma County in recent years. The precast concrete pieces–some 13 inches thick—will be manufactured in Sacramento, then transported to the construction site.
“It (construction) will go up very fast,” Hunt said.
The SNF will be a tribute to the veterans it serves, and also to those who serve them.
“Give credit to CalVet for its continued work to improve the care and environment for the elderly,” Hunt said. “They are a huge advocate for taking care of people in a dignified way. This is a labor of love.”
Of the veterans, by the veterans, and for the veterans.