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Featured Article:

Electronic Barrier Management Program Ensures

When Complete, Parkland Will Be the Largest Public Hospital Building

Scheduled for fall 2014 completion, the 2.5 million-square-foot new Parkland Hospital is the largest healthcare construction project in the nation. When the $1.3 billion project is complete, it will serve more than half a million patients annually. With a campus covering 2.5 million square feet, the project includes a new 865-bed acute care hospital, outpatient clinics, parking garage, central utility plant and other support facilities. 

New Parkland Hospital
Pictured above is an architectural rendering of the new Parkland Hospital, which will serve the residents of Dallas County, Texas. With a campus covering 2.5 million square feet, the project includes the new 865-bed acute care hospital, outpatient clinics, parking garage, central utility plant and other support facilities. Construction began in October 2010, financed by a combination of tax and revenue bonds. Overall, new Parkland has created an estimated 3,000 new jobs during the course of the construction.
BARA Construction Management Team
For the massive construction project, Parkland assembled an integrated team to provide construction management services. Operating from a co-location office directly across from the new site, the joint venture team was called BARA, an acronym for the firms Balfour Beatty Construction, Austin Commercial, H.J. Russell & Company and Azteca Enterprises.

The new facility will take the citizens of Dallas County well into the 22nd century according to Parkland Fire Marshal Michael Rader.  It will replace the current Parkland Hospital, which was built in 1954. “The old building is still structurally very sound, and is built to code, but it has had a number of retrofits over the years of everything from air conditioning to multiple types of  IT systems. It was time for something new.”  Rader oversees the life safety code compliance within Parkland to ensure the fire safety of patients, visitors and staff within the building.

Finding the Right Solution
Ensuring the integrity of the fire barrier systems is a major life safety requirement for the new construction. “Firestopping is the last line of defense for patients within a hospital,” explained Rader. “Should something happen in one area, the firestopping system and smoke-tight seals of your barriers are your last line of defense to protect someone’s mother, brother or sister.  You’ve got to think about it in those terms.  You don’t just try to do the minimum, or find a system that will work, you want the best.”

To find the best system for the Parkland project, Rader and the BARA construction management team held multiple meetings and scope reviews looking at systems, materials and tracking systems from a number of firestop manufacturers.  Fire-rated pathways were critical in the product line selection as was a barrier management program.  The eventual choice was an electronic barrier management program from Specified Technologies, Inc. (STI) called eBMP™. “The accountability of the program as a whole rather than just as a software component was important,” explained Rader. “It was a complete system.”  The program digitally manages the process of creating, sealing, mapping and subsequent accessing of all penetrations in the facility.

(STI eBMP)  






Tracking System
The program tracks, houses and manages the data.  “Tracking is a huge issue and a big responsibility for whoever is doing the work and whoever is doing the inspections,” said Rader. From an inspector’s vantage point, the program allows random barrier selection and inspection without the cumbersome and costly process of locating a given penetration, fire damper, fire door or fire extinguisher cabinet. “Barcoding labels associated with each penetration allow easy tracking of every pipe and every wire that’s going through a wall,” explained Rader.   “So, if you are looking at a bundle of wires you can literally use the software and find out exactly what the wires are and keep a history of their lifespan and use. The barcode label is absolute proof that the penetration you intend to inspect is, in fact, the penetration being inspected.”
Minimizing Contamination Critical in Hospital Environment
In the healthcare environment, the ability to quickly find a penetration, a pipe or a bundle of wires can substantially minimize air contamination.  “And, that’s huge,” says Rader. “Any time you have to remove a ceiling tile in a hospital you encounter dust and stale air.  That’s something you don’t want in a patient area.  Being able to quickly find what you are looking for means you disturb as little as possible above the ceiling.”

Program is a Gatekeeper
BARA was able to bid out the scope of work competitively and hire a firestopping subcontractor that was familiar with the STI electronic barrier management program and incorporate it into the Parkland Project.  According to Rick Stokes, owner and vice president of Fire Blockers, Inc., the contractor in charge of all firestopping and implementation of the program for the project,  “Projects that intend to maintain multiple rated barriers for the long haul must come to terms with the known deficiencies that occur on every project. The electronic barrier management program is the gatekeeper that can drive a facility to maintain these rated barriers at 100 percent compliance. There should never be a need to have firestop deficiencies listed on a ‘Statement of Conditions.’ The absence of this burden will pay huge dividends for the owner as well as the patient and employee.”

Absolute Compliance Throughout the Construction Process
In hospital construction, explained Stokes, “Trade coordination is absolutely the key. The electronic barrier management program created an environment on the project in which all sub-contractors had to coordinate with Fire Blockers when making penetrations in rated walls.  The documentation is excellent.  The benefit to the owner, as well as the construction manager has been absolute compliance throughout the construction process.”

Tagging and Labeling a Major Benefit
In addition to specifying the electronic barrier management program, BARA used a variety of other firestop products from STI including sprays, wrap strips, firestop putty and putty pads, composite sheets and fire-rated pathways. “The fire-rated pathway (EZ-Path®) was the premier component,” said Rader.  “What set it apart from traditional pass-through devices was its self-sealing ability.”








IT and Low Voltage Solutions
The fire-rated pathways were the primary devices specified for penetrations in the building. “They are used in areas where you are going to have your most frequent change,” explained Rader.  “These include IT applications where they afford the capability to add, remove and change wires easily, and low voltage solutions where controls can change frequently.”

Engineering Support a Constant
The products’ supplier provided engineering support and generated shop drawings that included the different barrier types, and the rated assemblies provided a quick reference when needed.  “The use of the iPad in conjunction with the submittal package made for a smooth review process on-site,” said BARA’s John Gardiner, who is in charge of all quality control for the massive project.  “The other benefit was having the supplier’s engineering support at our fingertips.  If we ran into a barrier issue that did not fit for that specific firestopping UL rating, we were able to rely on the supplier to get us an engineering judgment that would work for the application.”

According to Rick Stokes, owner and vice president of Fire Blockers, Inc. "As construction leaders we need to further review how we can do better within our industry to promote and use systems such as an electronic barrier management program in facilities other than hospitals. We need to educate owners, facility managers, architects and contractors on the best way to approach the application as we now specify it, bid it, scope it, and install it in multiple different ways."

Level of Coordination Reviewed in Three Stages
Once installation started it was evident that in order to meet the inspection dates for in-wall review and above ceiling, certain items in regards to firestopping needed to be complete.  With the in-wall process, the floor penetrations had to be sealed and the penetrations in-wall from floor to deck above had to be sealed.  “Fire Blockers did a great job of getting this work completed for the BARA inspection,” said Gardiner. The level of coordination was reviewed in three stages:  (1) the project documents outlined the fire and smoke barriers, which were reviewed with the electronic barrier management drawings during the inspections for verification purposes. (2) Every rated partition was labeled with a stencil detailing the rating of the wall; this was also reviewed for verification purposes. (3) Options 1 and 2 were also reviewed in conjunction with the mechanical and electrical drawings for verification of fire/smoke dampers and fire-rated pathways to ensure that all trades had installed the work correctly and that the coordination had taken place in the field.  “The second inspection was our above ceiling inspection,” said Gardiner. “During this inspection we were verifying that the tags and labels for the electronic barrier management program were installed.  During this inspection Parkland was able to review the areas that the wall ratings followed, and that the system had been coordinated and could be 100% tracked immediately.”

Major Benefits Going Forward
While the advantages of the electronic barrier management program have yet to be seen, Parkland now has the ability to track all of their rated systems and validate that all of the penetrations under BARA’s control are certified and are logged and tagged in the system — and were verified throughout the on-site inspection process.  “Both worked hand in hand,” said Gardiner. “Now Parkland has to take it to the next level and continue to use the system for its intent.” 

Eliminates the Vulnerabilities
In a project such as Parkland, the number of systems and processes that have to be managed, documented and recorded is “massive” said Rader.  “It all comes down to documentation and tracking, and the reliability of systems such as the fire-rated pathways.  You want to eliminate as many vulnerabilities as you can, and having a device like the fire-rated pathway that is self-sealing — that is one vulnerability you can check off your list.”

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About Specified Technologies Inc. (STI)
Headquartered in Somerville, New Jersey, STI is an industry leader solely committed to the development of innovative, reliable firestopping solutions. Marketed under the EZ-Path®, SpecSeal®, and e-BMP® brands, the STI line offers over 1200 UL® Classified systems that assure high quality, high performance, and highly cost effective firestopping solutions. For more information contact; STI, 210 Evans Way, Somerville, NJ 08876, Ph: 800-992-1180 or visit

About Fire Blockers, Inc.
Fire Blockers, Inc. is a specialty firestop contractor that is FM4991 certified. It is the largest and most successful firestopping contractor in North Texas, offering a full range of service from installation of firestop systems to materials, consultation and support.  For more information contact: Fire Blockers, Inc., 3344 N. Highway 67, Midlothian, TX 76065-4310, Ph 972.230.7774 or visit

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