General Construction vs Health Care Construction

Health Care ConstructionHealth care construction is different than other construction projects starting with planning how to accomplish the project. The planning process for a health care project goes beyond scheduling crews, materials, and equipment. Other considerations are noise, fumes, and vibrations. Dust and noise are part of the daily work in the construction industry while the norm for the health care industry is clean and quiet. Construction work at a health care facility has unique and challenging questions that must be addressed by the contractor and owner before and during the building process.

A simple task like drilling a hole in the concrete needs to be looked at carefully before proceeding. What if the hole is being drilled next to the operating room where a sensitive procedure is being performed or next to a room where someone is in critical condition with sensitive life support equipment? These examples are typical situations that can occur on a health care project.

One practice that Ellis Construction uses to help crews think before they start a task is to visualize themselves on the other side of the wall. What if it is their loved one that is about to go into surgery or is in intensive care, would they want the doctor distracted or equipment affected by the noise and vibrations from the work the worker is going to perform? Keeping the environment as safe as possible for the patients and staff is a priority for every construction task.

Life safety is another area that requires preplanning and constant monitoring. Maintaining fire and smoke barriers during construction can be quite challenging. Removing or penetrating fire and smoke walls must be considered carefully and requires coordination with the owner, local fire department, and state and local inspection agencies before work begins on these rated walls. Other life safety items that must be considered are:

  • How will patients and staff be evacuated in case of an emergency?
  • Are the pathways clear?
  • Are walls constructed to rated design?
  • Is the staff properly trained and know alternate exit routes when corridors are closed?

Once these project items are planned, you can take a deep breath, but you’re not done. How about air quality? A health care facility has multiple air handling systems that supply clean air throughout the building. Other items that must be considered are:

  • Where are the fresh air intakes and returns?
  • Will the work being performed create dust, fumes, or restrict air intake?
  • How will this affect the air handling system?
  • Placement of construction equipment and where work activities take place are critical when planning the work.

Developing a plan to keep good air quality throughout the entire project is always a challenge.

Working in a health care facility is challenging but exciting. Managing the work schedule, being aware of affected surroundings, and the safety for everyone is paramount. Working on health care projects and seeing the improvements that provide for better health care, is a daily reminder of how construction touches and enriches the lives of everyone in the community.

Ron Wierzba has been an Ellis superintendent for more than 30 years with extensive health care construction experience.