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Consolidated Construction Co. Accelerates Building of COVID-19 Quarantine Facility for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe

by: Debra Wood
A SWO daycare classroom
A SWO daycare classroom
Consolidated Construction Co. self-performed the concrete work for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate COVID-19 quarantine facility.
Consolidated Construction Co. self-performed the concrete work for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate COVID-19 quarantine facility.
A ribbon cutting takes place at the facility.
A ribbon cutting takes place at the facility.
The SWO COVID-19 facility includes a commercial kitchen.
The SWO COVID-19 facility includes a commercial kitchen.
One of the SWO COVID-19 facility resident rooms
One of the SWO COVID-19 facility resident rooms
As COVID-19 ravaged the country, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribal leaders took steps to protect its members by building the COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation Facility, a food pantry and day care center on the Lake Traverse Reservation in northeastern South Dakota.

“We were lucky that our leadership had enough foresight to have a vision for these buildings,” says Jesse Larsen, a Construction Specialist with the tribe.

Full Speed Ahead
The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (SWO) applied for and received $24 million in July 2020 from the federal government through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the tribe devoted $11 million to the construction. The catch was the work would have to be completed by the end of 2020.

Architectural firm HKG of Aberdeen, South Dakota, and Consolidated Construction Co., of Appleton, Wisconsin – the general contractor and construction manager – were up for the challenge. HKG had some preliminary drawings started.

“When the funding hit, HKG was able to pull them off and present them to the council,” Larsen explains. “Some had to be adapted, but we were able to hit the ground running.”

The initial phase included building a 16-unit apartment building, with one and two-bedroom living units with kitchens, to serve as the COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation facility. It also has a commercial kitchen, a nursing station, and an area that separates those arriving with staff behind glass.

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Many people on the reservation live in multigenerational homes, making it difficult to quarantine or isolate if a member becomes infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

“Last year, if someone tested positive, the whole household had to isolate,” Larsen says. “We had so many instances of people isolated in a home and others in the home caught COVID.”

The first phase of the project, spending CARES Act funding, also increased the size of the existing 30-foot by 30-foot food pantry and partially paid for the day care facility.

“We put a huge addition on the food pantry, with modern equipment,” Larsen says. “Now we have enough storage for the food we need during the pandemic. … With the new building we are ready for anything.”

The existing day care facility could accommodate 25 children. The new building increased that to 100 children, which Larsen says, enables more people to go to work. The SWO tribe is one of the largest employers in the state, with the majority being casino jobs or in a biodegradable trash bag factory.

The second phase – which received separate funding – includes 22 efficiency units, offices and conference rooms. It was scheduled for completion this summer.

Larsen praised the design and construction team, saying, “they did such a great job.”

“The apartments are so beautiful, our elderly members wanted to rent them,” Larsen says.

‘Design on the Fly’
HKG had designed for the tribe in the past and introduced SWO to Consolidated. The three entities collaborated and worked closely together.

“It was a design on the fly to meet the schedule,” says Brett Christofferson, a Project Manager with Consolidated. Not only did Consolidated discuss constructability issues, the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing subcontractors assisted with the design.

While HKG worked on the design, Consolidated began the foundation work in July. The quarantine and isolation building is supported by 4-foot cross walls and a slab-on-grade foundation.

The quarantine and isolation buildings are wood frame with panelized walls, built in a controlled environment from a supplier. The roof system has engineered wood trusses, also manufactured in a controlled setting.

Each room in the facility has an individual HVAC system and is negatively pressurized. The duct work in the rooms and common areas has bipolar ionization, to kill bacteria and viruses. All of the floors and surfaces are able to be wiped down, same with the furniture.

Consolidated self-performed the concrete work, exterior finishes, and interior carpentry. The company uses GPS and robotic total station for foundation layout.

The food pantry is a pre-engineered metal building, with a walk-in cooler and freezer, adjacent to the existing pantry, which was remodeled.

“It’s a mix of new and adaptive reuse of a building, which the tribe needed to gain space with the budget restraints they had,” Christofferson says.

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The panelized wood day care center features the same HVAC system as the quarantine/isolation facility. It also has a commercial kitchen, laundry, break rooms, and office spaces.

The contractors worked closely with SWO’s Trible Employment Rights Office to employ as much tribal labor as possible and to teach them construction trades. Christofferson reports the program was successful. It helped the subcontractors find labor in a rather remote location during a skilled labor shortage.

The project finished on schedule and on budget.

“Completing three facilities in five to six months was a challenge,” Christofferson says. “Kudos to all of our subcontractors, our design partner, and the tribe for working to make that happen.”

The collaboration and a commitment by all to meet the hard deadline contributed to meeting the deadline and delivering a high-quality job, Larsen and Christofferson agreed.

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“This project was a huge success,” Christofferson says. “Consolidated was very happy to serve the SWO tribe and look forward to a long relationship.”

Looking Ahead
After the pandemic subsides, SWO plans to use the quarantine and isolation facilities as a behavioral health treatment center. The efficiencies will be used for shorter-term treatment and the apartments for long-term drug treatment.

“We think there’s a need to serve our youth who are struggling with addiction,” Larsen says.

SWO also will receive American Rescue Plan Act funding to assist in economic relief. The tribe has $30 million in pending projects.

“We are persevering through this pandemic,” Larsen concludes.

Photos courtesy of Consolidated Construction Co.

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