For some around Louisville, Wehr Constructors is known as the construction firm that builds hospitals. And truth be told, many of the leading medical facilities in the city were indeed built by Wehr, from Frazier Rehabilitation and Neuroscience Center to Jewish Hospital Medical Center East to the newly constructed East Tower Expansion at Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital in St. Matthews.
While the list of medical facility projects in Wehr’s portfolio is lengthy, the company’s history dates back to 1945 and includes work for other business segments, even though many outside the company aren’t aware of this.
“Every week,” says Wehr Vice President Nick Fears, “I run into somebody that says, ‘I thought you guys just did hospitals.’”
The company’s recent $8.5 million airport renovation should help dispel those notions. You probably noticed the construction if you have traveled into or out of Louisville via the sky in the last year or so. Leading up until early 2017, when the project was completed, Wehr Constructors was hard at work remaking the airport into a modern and enviable hub.
For the Wehr project team, a key factor in getting the project off the ground was making sure the Louisville Regional Airport Authority understood Wehr’s capabilities.
“It was an opportunity to take our experiences in health care and apply it to work with the additional security measures inside an airport,” says onsite Project Manager Jonathan Boome. “The Airport Authority was very open to hearing about our experiences in and around hospitals and how it applied to their project.”
Wehr renovated the entire ticketing area, security gates, pedway between security and the airside, and gate hold areas. The company installed new lighting, repainted the entire air and land sides, installed new departure and arrival boards, refurbished the rotunda, installed new elevator cladding, plus they rebuilt access to the Bourbon Experience Loft and installed state-of-the-art EcoMod escalators. Ornate terrazzo floors were also poured as part of the project.
Building out an airport has its similarities to building a hospital, according to the Wehr project team.
“Wehr has done a lot of hospital work,” says Neil Logsdon, who served as night shift superintendent of the project. “We worked with the same concept as we would have in a hospital. Terrazzo is poured like concrete and it must be ground down to get a smooth finish. We had to set up barrier walls and enclose each area to contain dust.”
And as with construction of a hospital, safety for the airport renovation project was a priority – especially since the facility is used 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by the public.
Boome adds, “The approaches are very similar. In both cases, construction dust and debris must be kept away from the public and areas must remain secure and constantly monitored. Both require background checks and badging. However, the background checks at an airport are checked on a federal level and have more stringent regulations and responsibilities associated with them.”
Therefore, the construction area was sealed off from the public – not to prevent sneak peeks from what was going on, but for sheer safety reasons. Wehr is diligent about following the necessary requirements to assure safety of not only the public, but workers as well.
“Basically, we approach all construction projects when working around their employees and the general public in a similar manner,” says construction superintendent Mark Redfern. “In fact, I feel that the experience gained in renovating and constructing additions on hospitals was a tremendous asset in completing the airport project with no issues and minimal disruptions to the airport, its employees and passengers.”
Perhaps the crown jewel of the project was the aforementioned terrazzo flooring, which is located throughout the concourses and in the airside rotunda. The floors feature Louisville-themed artwork depicting everything from a horse racing image to the constellation of Pegasus.
“It is a beautiful piece of work,” Logsdon says. “I’m very satisfied with how it turned out.”
Boome says his favorite aspect of the project was “the transformation from a space that seemed to close in around you with dark carpeted areas to a space that now seems more open and bright, even on a cloudy day. The terrazzo flooring really allows for the natural light to carry through.
“I feel like the architects and Airport Authority came up with a great design, and once we were able to finish and tie everything together, it’s a fantastic gateway to Louisville. I’m honored I was able to be a part of this project.”
Fears knows that Wehr Constructors can take on pretty much any project, and the Louisville International Airport was no different. They’ve built schools, office buildings, churches, parking garages and country clubs – you name it. Whether it’s an airport or a distillery, no construction job is outside Wehr’s realm of expertise, even if hospitals are what they may be best known for these days.
“We showed that we’re flexible,” Fears says. “We did something we’d never done before and did it successfully.”
To learn more about Wehr Constuctors and the various projects the company has completed, visit wehrconstructors.com.