IllinoisHealthcare When it comes to medical space, it really is innovate or die Matt Baker June 11, 2019 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share via email The world of healthcare real estate is driven by increased need—brought about by aging Boomers—as well as an ever more specialized and localized momentum of providers pushing out to locales where people live and work. But demand is not the only driver for how we design and build these facilities. Looking for more insight into the world of healthcare real estate? Register now for the 6th annual Healthcare & Medical Office Conference June 20th at Maggiano’s. Everyone wants to be on the cutting edge of construction trends of course, but the benefits of innovative techniques align so well with the healthcare sector in particular. State of the art processes not only provide a higher level of care—something that providers are increasingly drawn to—they can also meaningfully cut costs. When it comes to innovation in building design and construction—regardless of asset class—the next front appears to be modular. In Chicago, Skender is leading that charge, as the firm recently opened their building manufacturing facility in Little Village. While the first order they are fulfilling is for multifamily units, Skender is working closely with healthcare institutions on how modular construction fits the bill for what they are trying to achieve. And in many regards, modular and healthcare are ideal allies. “What we’re doing now is taking a look at what the broadly influential healthcare institutions across the country are doing and seeing if we can use that to shift the needle a little in the Midwest,” said Jenny Han, director of healthcare design at Skender and a featured speaker at the June 20th conference. “We’re looking at historical data and evidence-based design—the kinds of things that have a greater influence over innovation in healthcare.” There are certain aspects of all construction, but especially in healthcare, that have modularized over time like wall assemblies, furniture and casework systems. Constructing a fully modularized building simply takes that concept and expands it. Many hospitals already have off-the-shelf bathroom or exam room pods to choose from. The next step is to shift up to treatment rooms, operating theaters and other medical uses. These slide-in, non-structural units can be built off site where the safety and efficiency of the build are highly controlled. “We are also considering modules of care where it’s not just about one pod, but how a grouping of pods fit together,” Han said. In the case of, for example, a freestanding emergency room or ambulatory surgery center, all the components can arrive at the site in pieces and in the end work together in harmony. “What we’re doing is developing a product where maybe one day you can go to Amazon and pick out 10 exam rooms,” said Han. “They would be made from the best materials and it’s a more innovative way of looking at healthcare construction.” It’s not just dockable modules, however. Modular construction can and often does consider the whole building and when it comes to the building envelope, off-site manufacturing in a controlled and automated environment can result in a finished product assembled within very tight tolerances. “The level of precision is a lot greater than when you stick build,” said Han. “When you have an envelope, for example, that relies on seams being consistent or gaps being of a prescribed engineered distance, you are able to achieve something much closer to the designed goal so that your performance is more predictable.” By design, modular construction tends to be less wasteful, imbuing environmental sustainability and reducing costs. That latter point is a particularly strong argument for those looking to construct a healthcare facility as no other asset class has a higher per-square-foot cost to develop. With patient satisfaction increasingly driving more and more design change decisions in healthcare facilities, those costs are only going to go up as developers look to install higher grade finishes and offerings. The human component is important in another regard, as modular construction reduces the amount of time that contractors are on site. “When you are doing off-site construction, you can control your level of disruption for existing in-patient or clinical occupancies,” said Han. “So you are able to take what could be a 12-month time frame and squeeze it down to three months, depending on the scale of the project.” Tempering dust and noise keeps patients happier, but it also affects the bottom line. Healthcare facilities have to prepare interim life safety resources and take other measures that other asset types don’t have to take into account. As a result, medical providers will be attracted to anything that can reduce the added cost of these redundant systems. To hear more insights into healthcare real estate—including prognoses of the asset class, financing, MOB neighborhood developments and much more—register now for the Healthcare & Medical Office Conference on June 20th.