Healthcare Design for Durability, Flexibility and Aesthetic

Healthcare Design for Durability, Flexibility and Aesthetic

August 15, 2017

How Prefabricated Architectural Solutions Rise to Meet the Challenging Demands of the Healthcare Industry

Interior design for healthcare is filled with unique considerations: durability because of the hard use in areas that host patients around the clock, flexibility to address a wide range of functionality and equipment, and aesthetics to promote efficiency and the comfort of patients. All of this in a setting where cleanliness and hygiene are crucial factors and where the space needs to remain in constant use. Downtime for repairs can be a logistical nightmare. Combine these elements with the rapid construction timeline often required for healthcare spaces and the challenge can be daunting.

Featured below are three healthcare project profiles. In every instance, the facilities and design teams chose to buck traditional construction methods in favor of the advantages of modular construction. The customized solutions offered by DIRTT Environmental Solutions were specifically tailored to provide a state-of-the art response to the needs of each space.

Detroit Medical Center

Detroit, MI

Detroit Medical Center needed a space for observing ER patients with undefined and mild symptoms without tying up their medical/surgical beds. The hospital devoted an underused storage area to be transformed into a new observation unit equipped with 29 beds. However, the logistical prospect of such a big construction endeavor to the working hospital was creating a headache before it even began. Concerns about the drywall dust and noise associated with traditional construction were paramount to the point that the design team was receptive to taking a new direction with custom prefab construction.

“I sat down initially as a skeptic,” said John Miller, architect and senior program manager at the Detroit Medical Center. But he gave DIRTT its day in court and determined that if the team could make it work in terms of budget after a careful cost-by-cost analysis, then it would be a game changer for the observation unit project.

“We were 5% less on using DIRTT than using a stick built comparison,” said Miller. The cost savings with DIRTT came from the labor savings. Eliminating on-site fabrication not only reduces noise and debris, it also nets a tremendous reduction in the cost of labor.

Timeline was also a massive factor for the project; it had already been cut by 18 months by the time DIRTT was proposed. At the very least, it was an expectation that DIRTT would be able to match the conventional construction timeline. DIRTT was able to complete the project 30 days sooner than the conventional construction quote, which impressed the team tremendously.

The resulting space enhances the comfort of patients and performs well for staff. “We’ve got great aesthetics,” said Miller. The durability of the beautifully designed space has also garnered high praise from the project team. The observation unit patients are more mobile and active than those typical to the emergency department, and they tend to interact with the space more heavily. “We get hard use of the space,” explained Miller. “These patients are fidgety. They’re not home.”

Despite the heavy use the space receives, the team hasn’t had to perform any repairs to the DIRTT elements. Although easily replaceable DIRTT tiles were a key consideration of the facilities team, they haven’t even had a chance to showcase this aspect during tours: DIRTT is holding up perfectly in the high-demand space. “We have had to repair and protect drywall regularly,” said Miller.


Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin

Madison, WI

This cutting-edge primary care clinic sought to employ flexibility and efficiency to create a space that would continue to evolve alongside changing healthcare delivery methods. For Group Health Cooperative, timeline was a critical factor: three months to complete a 4,100 square foot space. Conventional construction was not a viable option for the project.

“We chose to build a space in which every inch was thought through, where design features are functional,” said Project Management Specialist Becky McGuire. DIRTT’s unique customization allowed the team to forgo protective bumpers, provide aesthetically-pleasing privacy in exam rooms, and maximize areas where equipment could be stored.

“We felt DIRTT provided us with the most efficient footprint flexibility, as well as quality of design,” explained CEO Kevin Hayden. Staff have lauded the space’s effect on increasing the level of care that they are able to deliver, and local medical staff are clamoring for position openings at the clinic.

“Now we have a blueprint for easily reconfiguring and adapting our clinic space to meet healthcare’s ever-changing needs,” said McGuire.




Hunterdon Orthopaedic Institute

Flemington, NJ

Hunterdon Orthopaedic Institute sought to differentiate themselves from the competition by offering patients a world-class facility that despite its grand scale, didn’t feel impersonal and convoluted. Efficiency was vital to ensure that patients would feel well-cared for and comfortable. Organized equipment storage and ergonomic positioning would allow care providers to focus on patients rather than fumbling for items haphazardly.

The demanding storage needs of the space made the project team initially doubtful of a prefabricated millwork solution, but DIRTT’s custom abilities were soon proven. “I didn’t realize DIRTT’s solution was truly custom,” said Dr. Robert More, the physician overseeing the buildout.

“As I learned more about DIRTT I started to challenge the team – and they came through,” said Dr. More. “I got everything I wanted, giving our team maximum efficiency.”

All of this customization was completed without an increase in cost, because DIRTT’s price is based exclusively on materials and is not dependent upon standard sizes with additional charges for specials. “I never had sticker shock,” said Dr. More.

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