Ardie R. Copas State Veterans Nursing Home

Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Best Project, Government/Public Building

Submitted By: OHLA Building, Inc.

Owner: Florida Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Lead Design Firm: Rogers, Lovelock & Fritz

General Contractor: OHLA Building

Civil Engineer: VHB

Structural Engineer: TLC Engineering Solutions

MEP Engineer: Rogers, Lovelock & Fritz

Subcontractors: Noresco, Foodesign Associates, Quietly Making Noise, Planning, Research and Design for the Aging

Named for a Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor Recipient, the 25-acre, 121,000-sq-ft Ardie R. Copas State Veterans Nursing Home is designed to look and feel like home for Florida’s veterans, with two 60-bed neighborhoods offering a variety of services for 120 veterans.

A combination of reinforced concrete, structural steel and reinforced masonry, the structure features elevated mechanical rooms isolated from common areas and residential rooms, requiring extensive coordination to supply the self-sufficient facility’s long connector wings.

The project had 200 personnel on site when Florida’s COVID-19 emergency mandate went into effect, requiring OHLA to modify its operations and navigate delays in materials and parts to successfully complete the project.

The main building, dubbed the Heroes Center, houses the main lobby, admissions area, physical therapy services, cafe, kitchen, chapel, dining facilities and more. It’s surrounded by conservation areas providing a peaceful setting for the nursing home and its residents.

Ardie R. Copas State Veterans Nursing Home

Photo courtesy Robin Hill

Crews had to elevate the site three feet to ensure proper drainage throughout the 25-acre site, with all drainage self-contained with no seepage into local ponds or drains, helping the project achieve its LEED Gold status, as well as efficient and emission-reducing mechanical and electrical systems and meeting all the specifications required for use of local materials and water and air quality.

A minimal amount of wood was used during the construction of the facility. Instead, the structural features are comprised of mostly steel, including the trusses and roof deck.

Ardie R. Copas State Veterans Nursing Home

Photo courtesy Robin Hill

Hit by COVID-19 restrictions when the project had 200 craft personnel on site, OHLA Building modified its safety procedures to ensure PPE availability and staggered work activities to keep subcontractors in different areas of the site. Contractors also had to navigate delays in material and parts deliveries, resequencing work activities to keep work on track.

Ardie R. Copas State Veterans Nursing Home

Photo courtesy Robin Hill

The building’s design marries the modern conveniences of home with the added benefit of state-of-the-art services available to residents who celebrated the soft opening of the facility with pride, honoring the 19-year-old Fort Pierce resident and machine gunner, Ardie Copas, who died in 1970 protecting four wounded men while they escaped from enemy fire in Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

The $51 million project was completed in April 2022, establishing the only State Veterans Home in the area, which houses nearly 280,000 veterans, including 118,617 over the age of 65, according to the Port St. Lucie government, which says the closest State Veterans Homes are two hours away in all directions.