MSU construction management alum helping to build COVID-19 alternate care facility

Michigan State University alumnus Jack Brierton is helping to build one of three alternate care facilities in the Chicago area for COVID-19 patients.

Photo of Jack Brierton wearing construction hard hat and vest.
Jack Brierton, a 2018 MSU construction management graduate and Chicago resident.

Michigan State University alumnus Jack Brierton is part of a team from Clark Construction helping to build one of three alternate care facilities in the Chicago area for COVID-19 patients.

The 2018 construction management graduate and Chicago resident never dreamed that he would work on such a significant project that could impact so many lives.

“It is certainly an opportunity of a lifetime, and that is very much an understatement,” he said. “I’ve had several people who have been working in the industry for years now say ‘once this is accomplished this is the single most important thing I’ve done in my life’ and to do that in my first year is astonishing. I’m very fortunate and recognize the impact this building will make going forward.”

Brierton, an engineer for Clark Construction, serves in a field engineer position for this project to update and reopen the MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island which was closed in October 2019.

Working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers, the construction team of about 150 people are working as quickly as possible to reinvent and repair the hospital encompassing six floors and a half a million square feet. Each floor is under renovation, from the emergency room and ICU to previous office space, in order to provide the maximum number of patient rooms. When completed, the hospital is expected to provide an additional 550 rooms for the Chicago area, of which approximately 300 rooms will serve tier three patients.

“We’re converting the rooms to provide different levels of care,” Brierton said. “Tier three provides the highest care with ventilators, extra emergency power, medical air and negative air units in each patient room.”

According to Brierton, the hospital opened in 1905 as St. Francis Hospital, with an addition built in the latter part of the century. Due to its age, many upgrades are needed to the facility’s plumbing, electrical, ventilation and networking infrastructures.

“We are re-inventing and replacing these systems,” he said. “A lot of the piping is extremely old and corroded.”

He explained that they have to re-pipe all of the medical air systems and tie them into new systems. The ventilators for tier three patients also required additional work to provide three types of air: vacuum, oxygen and medical air. In addition, negative air systems had to be installed in the hospital to filter the air outside through a HEPA filter, thus using no recycled air in the building.

“Most buildings recycle a majority of its air, we’re trying to achieve zero recycled air,” he said. “That was a big feat, in and of itself.”

This hospital is just one of three facilities under renovations in the Chicago area to serve patients with COVID-19.

“I know that what we are doing here is going to help flatten the curve,” Brierton added.                                                                                                                                       

“We are staying safe by using personal protective equipment. I feel confident that what we’re doing here is crucial to saving lives. Because the faster we get this done, the safer we get this done, the better we can serve the community.”

The MSU construction management program is within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources School of Planning, Design and Construction. For more information on the program, visit

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