Healthcare facility development remains one of the most complex endeavors in the construction industry. Design is dictated by many factors including, but certainly not limited to, physician-hospital relations, financing, capacity, care for the uninsured, patient safety, technological advances, patient satisfaction and perpetually changing government regulations. The number of parties involved (owner/developer, architect, program manager, general contractor, subcontractors, compliance firms), construction timelines, patient/staff experiences, budget concerns and facility longevity present daunting challenges for project owners. We cover four steps owners/developers should take before and during the construction process to mitigate challenges.
1. The Design-Build Method Can Deliver Great Results
The design-build construction method, in contrast to the traditional method or “design-bid-build”, gives a greater unity of vision between the architect/designer and the general contractor. The “design-builder” is often led by the general contractor but can also be spearheaded by a design professional like an architect or engineer. Since the designer and contractor work in tandem, the owner needs to manage only one contract. With only one party handling design and construction, there is less concern for finger-pointing and politically-driven project delays.
More importantly, since the designer and contractor are collaborating at once, the construction project timeline can be significantly streamlined. With less redesign and reworking needed, projects are completed far more efficiently. As far as healthcare is concerned, the ability to have flexible design as the project progresses is a crucial advantage. Regulations, preferences, technology and trends can change on a dime. Having the ability to adjust, rather than relying exclusively on a pre-set architectural design, is much welcomed.
2. Choose Materials to Keep Project On or Ahead of Schedule
Concrete is the only construction material with an “unknown” ready date. Drying times for conventional products can take several months to dry before flooring can be applied. Factors such as humidity, inclement weather, water-to-cement (W/C) ratios, among others can drastically set a project off schedule.
Rapid-drying concrete is guaranteed to dry within 45 days, giving owners, general contractors and architects a reliable product. Relative humidity (RH) levels must reach an acceptable target level (80% or less) prior to flooring installation. Rapid-drying concrete exceeds this goal and eliminates the need for costly and time-consuming moisture mitigation solutions required for conventional products.
3. Design For Patient Experience
Healthcare is increasingly trending towards a patient-centric approach and is dictated as much by design as it is staff. Healthcare Design points out several considerations for healthcare facilities looking to improve the patient experience. Creating more compact spaces that allow for better staff communication, proximity to patients and ease of travel is paramount to a successful modern healthcare facility. Additionally, an increased focus on family-centered care is becoming increasingly common. Single-family rooms are specifically designed with space for additional furnishings and equipment so families can establish stronger support systems for their loved ones. Proactive design in this area not only impacts patient health, but leads to innovating more efficient ways to utilize space.
4. Create Flexible and Highly-Adaptable Spaces
The healthcare industry is constantly changing, so designing spaces to accommodate for those changes is necessary for any successful long-term project. As noted in Building, Design + Construction Magazine, the Middle Tennessee Medical Center designed its facility to contain ER and pre-admission testing — two traditionally separate departments — in back-to-back locations. They realized the peak times for ER (evening) and pre-admission (morning) were spaced. As an efficiency solution, they merged the ER and pre-admission capacity together to facilitate increased traffic at each department’s peak time. In this way, the medical center could handle more patients and treated them more effectively. Healthcare is labor-intensive, with 60-70% of costs attributed to labor. Any designs that increase productivity of staff make a major difference to the bottom line.
Prioritizing Location and Speed-to-Market in a Competitive Landscape
Location and speed-to-market are both vitally important in regards to healthcare facilities. With so many projects waiting in the planning and approval process, the pressure to construct facilities as soon as possible is always in the back of an owner’s mind. Patients are receiving more healthcare options than ever before, especially in denser urban areas. Quality medical staff, meanwhile, are incredibly competitive and only raise the sense of urgency to complete projects quickly. With so many external demands placed on owners/developers, getting design right is critical.