In this series, Healthcare Design asks leading healthcare design professionals, firms, and owners to tell us what’s got their attention and share some ideas on the subject.

Chuck Richmond is the senior vice president and operations director for Lendlease’s healthcare group (New York). Here he shares his thoughts on futureproofing infrastructure, advancements in construction technology, and addressing societal issues through facility design.

  1. Expanding the idea of flexibility.

COVID-19 brought to light an abundance of new challenges in the healthcare sector, particularly for those working on vital healthcare construction projects. Occupied renovations had always posed a challenge with construction teams needing to remain flexible and adaptable as construction activities, such as deliveries and utility interruptions, co-exist with ongoing hospital operations. Now added to that is the safety of patients and workers themselves. Teams also had to be nimble when it came to the types of projects being done. For example, to support frontline workers, Lendlease undertook several emergency projects in the New York area, such as the conversation of non-clinical spaces into treatment areas, including parking lots into tented and trailer spaces for COVID-19 screening and a lobby into a bed surge area. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we need to remain flexible, ready to operate in uncertain environments, and pivot our priorities and projects to meet the most critical needs.

  1. Futureproofing.

While no one wants to think about the next pandemic, it’s important from a healthcare design perspective to start planning for future events. Addressing design challenges today will mitigate future hurdles and ensure the infrastructure can adequately support healthcare workers. A few things that are top of mind include:

  • The ability to easily change from positive to negative air pressurization simply through the building management system.
  • Designing medical gas systems to be able to accommodate additional gas outlets for temporary or permanent needs.
  • Increased electrical capacity with future outlets in place and readily available, specifically to support additional ventilators.

Furthermore, patient rooms ideally should be designed to accommodate an additional bed or stretcher with minimal modifications to address changes in hospital capacity like we saw with the COVID-19 pandemic. Spaces should also be designed to better protect staff from infectious patients by creating more anterooms and locating nurses’ charting stations outside of the treatment room.

  1. Innovation and technology.

Now more than ever, we need to push advancements in construction technology to help keep costs down while improving efficiencies, quality, and safety. One example is the use of laser scanning technology on both existing spaces as well as new construction. This technology helps designers understand existing conditions during design development, but also helps confirm that on-site construction is progressing in alignment with the design. Another recent example is the deployment of standalone health screening equipment on construction sites to perform temperature screening for workers. Normally this equipment would have been seen only at higher-security facilities like airports, but looking forward, this technology could be used to protect workers during construction, but also incorporated into a facility to protect staff, visitors, and patients alike.

  1. Rise of prefabrication and modularity.

We’re seeing more and more interest in prefabrication and modular construction as they proved to be expeditious ways of delivering required equipment and spaces. In addition to multiple MEP components, headwalls, footwalls, operating room walls and ceilings, and architectural walls are able to be built off-site, resulting in better quality, higher levels of safety, and significantly reduced installation time. For a recent emergency department expansion that was done in a tent, multiple custom headwalls were fabricated and made ready prior to the space being completed. A conventional build would have headwalls delivered and installed after the space was completed. This was the fastest possible project delivery for this mission-critical work.

  1. Embracing societal shifts

Besides being flexible and preparing for future pandemics or other disease outbreaks, it’s going to be interesting to see how healthcare organizations respond to important societal issues like gender equality. Accommodating patients, staff, and visitors in a healthcare facility will go well beyond simply providing gender-neutral bathrooms. I think we’re going to see more organizations really start talking and listening to underrepresented groups to ensure facilities meet the needs of everyone in society.

Want to share your Top 5? Contact Managing Editor Tracey Walker at tracey.walker@emeraldx.com for submission instructions.

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