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ECMC to undergo $43 million 'transformative' makeover

Erie County Medical Center's exterior is getting a major makeover, with a brighter new look.

Replacing 4,152 windows has a lot to do with it.

The hospital has launched a window replacement project that will take three and a half years to complete. Also, ECMC's sign atop the tower will be temporarily removed, for a lighting upgrade.

"This is part of an image change," said Thomas J. Quatroche Jr., ECMC's president and CEO. "The building from the outside will look brand new."

The $43 million project to replace windows and roofs will make the building more energy efficient.

But it won't be easy. The project is both large in scope and logistically complex, unfolding at a busy hospital over the course of a few years.

ECMC has mapped out the work schedule with the intent of keeping disruption to the hospital to a minimum, Quatroche said.

"We didn't want to have too many rooms offline" at once, he said. At most, only six patient rooms will be out of service at any one time.

Tom Quatroche, left, president and CEO, and James Turner, senior vice president of surgical and outpatient services. The blue windows and light tan façade to the right of Turner reflect the coming changes. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

ECMC took stock of the 40-year-old building's needs, and determined that replacing and upgrading the windows, rather than settling for "Band-Aid solutions," was a better long-term decision, Quatroche said.

ECMC also is in the midst of a $53 million upgrade of its emergency and trauma department, which should be finished next spring. The two projects illustrate the extensive changes the hospital is undergoing in the next few years.

The windows replacement work will continue this year until November, and then pause until the weather improves next year. The work will run on a seasonal schedule in both 2020 and 2021, before wrapping up sometime in 2022, said James Turner, senior vice president of surgical and outpatient services.

The exterior's appearance will end up looking brighter for a combination of reasons.

The new windows have a blue tint. Below the window panels will be glass panels, replacing the old, brown metal panels in place now. The concrete between the windows will be painted a lighter tan.

The blue tint of the windows will match the look of the behavioral health outpatient center next door. "It will make it look like a blended campus, more than independent buildings," Turner said.

The 192-foot-tall hospital is recognizable from afar by the four green and white Scrabble-like letters spelling out ECMC at the top of the tower. The letters, measuring 14 feet high by 14 feet wide, will be removed for about two months, probably in September, Turner said. A helicopter will lift them on to the roof.

ECMC's sign will be temporarily removed, probably in September. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

While the letters are out of service, they will be upgraded with LED lights, enabling the hospital to more easily change the color illuminating the letters for special occasions. Removing the letters also will allow workers to replace the windows at the top of the tower, Turner said. All four letters will be reinstalled at the same time.

Gilbane Construction is serving as the general contractor for the work at ECMC, and Buffalo-based Sterling Glass, a contract glazing company, is handling the windows removal and replacement work.

"This is, beyond a doubt, the largest project we've ever done," said Martin Loughran, who has owned Sterling Glass for 21 years. The business has one location on Niagara Street and another in Scranton, Pa.

Sterling works on commercial projects, including hospitals, colleges and municipal buildings, as well as private developers' buildings. "We build the framing, procure the glass and we do the install," Loughran said.

When the ECMC project is in full swing, Sterling Glass will have probably more than 20 people working in its Niagara Street shop on fabricating and assembling the frames, and coordinating daily deliveries to ECMC, Loughran said. "It's created quite a bit of work for our shop, which is great."

Sterling Glass will have more than 30 people working on-site at ECMC, plus four full-time people at its office managing all the work.

"It's great we're able to create these jobs and keep it right here in Buffalo," Loughran said.

The glass is being shipped to Buffalo from outside of Pittsburgh, and the aluminum framing was extruded in Michigan. About 8.4 miles of caulking is involved in the ECMC project, Loughran said. And all of material that Sterling Glass will install on ECMC weighs a combined 655 tons.

Loughran said his crews are working closely with ECMC to coordinate its schedule, and they are keeping an eye on the weather, since rain and wind create challenging conditions. Crews will use scaffolds suspended from the roof to work on the hospital tower, when the project advances to that stage.

Loughran is looking forward to the lasting impact of his crews' work. "This will the most transformative job I've ever done, when you think of before and after photographs," he said.

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