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The design of major construction projects at VA medical centers in Long Beach, Calif., and San Juan, Puerto Rico, have reached the first milestones. For each, the completed schematic design phase sets the stage for design development. Although VA major construction has generally slowed in recent years, these two SCI projects received funding because they are part of major seismic upgrades.

The Long Beach SCI Center will be altered as part of the medical center's overall $23-million seismic improvement project. The upgrade includes demolition of the pre-World War II "finger wards" adjacent to the 1988 Ernest Bors Spinal Cord Injury Center. SCI programs and services displaced by the demolition will be relocated to renovated space within the existing 120-bed SCI center. Relocated functions will include a new outpatient clinic, patient dining room, genito-urinary clinic, and SCI rehabilitation clinics. The new design also provides space for a PVA Service Office and California PVA (CPVA) office. CPVA has served Los Angeles area paralyzed veterans for more than 50 years.

Completion of the Long Beach design development phase is expected by December 1999 and construction documents by July 2000. Construction award is scheduled for September 2000.

The San Juan SCI Center is also part of major seismic improvement. The $50-million project will include removal of the existing tower structure, seismic reinforcing of the base building, and a new horizontal addition that will include a 20-bed SCI center. Rather than use conventional design procedures, however, this complex project is a "design build" contract. In this expedited process, the design and construction phases are awarded to a single firm that must meet an accelerated delivery schedule within established budget constraints.

PVA's National Architecture Program has been directly involved in the San Juan project's programming and design. Innovative solutions developed by PVA Architecture will be the subject of a future PN article. Construction award is currently scheduled for September 2000.


Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) is a particularly important Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program for many PVA members. It gives qualified veterans financial assistance in obtaining housing equipped with accessible features appropriate to their service-connected disabilities.

Since the program's establishment in 1948, more than 29,500 eligible veterans have received in excess of $441 million in grants to build new homes or adapt existing ones to accommodate disability-related needs. The maximum grant amount for these accessible-housing features has risen from $10,000 in 1948 to the current maximum, $43,000. VA's Loan Guaranty Service administers the SAH program through agents assigned to regional offices.

The Loan Guaranty Service scheduled a Specially Adapted Housing Agent's Conference for September 20-21, 1999, in Baltimore. Agents from the six regional groups were briefed on topics such as application processing, rating decisions, veteran interviewing, architectural plan review, grant calculations, feasibility and site inspections, and building practices. At the request of the program's national chief, Brain Bixler, PVA Architecture's Kim A. Beasley, A.I.A., National Architecture director, and Thomas D. Davies Jr., A.I.A., senior associate architecture director, made an accessible design presentation. The conference gave all participants an exciting opportunity to compare program staff experiences based on their service to veterans in all parts of the country.

PVA Architecture has been directly involved with the SAH program for many years. Davies wrote and co-illustrated the program's original design handbook in 1978. Since 1988, PVA Architecture's experience with participating PVA members has been somewhat mixed. While the vast majority who have used their grants have greatly benefited from the program, several veterans have had serious complaints. Dissatisfied participants have typically been unhappy with the final product, either because the general contractor's workmanship was unsatisfactory or the completed project failed to meet initial expectations in terms of accessibility.

Following the Baltimore conference, PVA Architecture will increase its focus on the SAH program. As a first step, PVA has committed to help VA rewrite and update the current design manual now more than 20 years old. In addition, PVA will review the program's current design and construction procedures, with particular emphasis on initial planning decisions regarding renovation of existing homes or construction of new ones. Recommendations for appropriate procedures will enhance program effectiveness.

The PVA Veterans Benefits staff will assist in these tasks. PN readers wishing to share their experiences with the Department's SAH program may write to PVA Architecture, 801 Eighteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006, or e-mail

KIM BEASLEY Director, Architecture
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Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Date:Nov 1, 1999
Previous Article:Government Relations.
Next Article:Paralysis Society of America.

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