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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center PTSD/Mental Health Research & Laboratory Addition

Charleston, South Carolina

Market Sector



Facility Design

Services Provided

Mechanical and Electrical Engineering/ESD, Seismic Analysis and Design, Surveying, Program Management, Planning, Design, Construction Management, Code Services, Architecture, Structural Engineering



T.Y. Lin International (TYLI) provided architectural design, civil engineering, structural engineering, mechanical, electrical, and fire protection engineering, and construction contract administrative services for the new 16,000-square-foot Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder/Mental Health Research & Laboratory addition for the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina. The project was awarded to TYLI by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The fully-equipped addition provides a new emergency entry to the facility and includes laboratory spaces, mental health exam rooms, administrative offices, storage rooms, restrooms, and mechanical/ electrical rooms. Due to plans for future vertical expansion, TYLI’s design for the single-story, expandible structure required the installation of a foundation system and infrastructure for a 5-story building. This will allow for a seamless match to the existing floor elevations at all five floors.

This project provided many structural challenges. The site is located in a coastal hurricane wind and high seismic area, and has unfavorable soil conditions. Because of the soil conditions, piles were used in lieu of bearing-type foundations. Existing deep piles on the site were needed to help stabilize the soil, but they could not accommodate additional loading. As a result, the design needed to work around existing piles as well as the extremely tight construction site.

Although vibrations could be tolerated by the existing structures, the final pile selection/installation was based on large diameter auger cast piles instead of driven piles to prevent excessive vibrations from affecting the surrounding structures and ongoing hospital operations.

Project Highlights:

  • The new addition was required to match the existing hospital’s floor elevations. Design was based on precast concrete structural framing, floor, and shear wall systems.
  • TYLI’s design of the laboratory spaces took into account new fume hoods, laboratory work benches, chemical mixing stations, specialized laboratory plumbing systems, and storage, medical and laboratory gas delivery systems.
  • The building meets all current seismic and life safety criteria.
  • The design for fire protection measures includes wet-pipe sprinkler protection and compartmentation and interior fire alarm and detection systems.
  • The ground level connection to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center required modifications and renovations to existing adjacent spaces, walls, and windows.
  • All new engineering systems were designed by TYLI to be compatible with existing engineering systems.