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Patrick Springer, Published May 31 2013

Sanford expects no pounding headaches

FARGO - The ground beneath the new Sanford Medical Center that will rise above the city’s southwestern skyline is in for a real pounding.

Construction crews soon will begin driving steel piles – lots and lots of piles – eight stories underground to support the million-square-foot, $500-million center.

Will that industrial-strength gong bother the neighbors?

Probably not, in the view of a Sanford administrator and the construction manager, who said the pile-driving should sound about as loud as a garbage truck driving by.

Pipe deliveries are expected to begin arriving over the next few days, and crews will be driving the pipes about 80 feet into the ground until early fall.

Plans call for driving about 1,270 pipes in an X-shaped footprint to support the hospital-and-clinic complex, slated to open in its first phase in 2016 or 2017. If laid end to end, the pipes would stretch almost 19 miles.

Once driven, the pipes will be filled with concrete. Also, concrete pad supports of varying sizes will cap piles at strategic locations to gird the foundation, which will be poured later.

The piles, which will rest upon a rocky layer that once formed the bottom of ancient Lake Agassiz, are required because of the soft and shifting soils and subsoils in the Red River Valley.

Neighbors should not be bothered by the pile driving, said Don Marty, Sanford’s vice president of medical center administration.

“We feel we’re far enough from the buildings and residential that there won’t be any vibration,” he said.

“There will be noise,” however, he added, invoking the garbage truck comparison.

Noise levels will be monitored with an instrument, he said.

The pile driving will occur in the center of the medical center’s 110-acre site near Veteran’s Boulevard and Interstate 94.

The building area already has been excavated about 20 feet beneath the surface, which will help contain the noise, said Brad Folkert, project manager for Mortenson Construction/Nor-Son, Inc., the Minnesota-based construction partnership building the center.

Also, the piles will be driven through soft ground until reaching the layer of rock, which will help to limit the noise, Folkert said.

“There’s very little resistance until they get to the very bottom,” he said.

Soil tests last fall, which involved pounding supports, did not prompt complaints from neighbors, who were notified before that work started and will be notified before the pile driving begins, Marty said.

The tests determined that caissons, supports that have a bigger diameter than piles, were not suitable. In the Red River Valley, the soft clay soils require almost all major structures to have supports, Folkert said.

Final schematic drawings for the new medical center soon will be available.

As of January, plans called for the center to have about 380 beds and stand 11 stories tall.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522