Creating building design standards is a good idea for any institution. For healthcare facilities, having a clearly defined set of building design standards is an important tool that can help manage many aspects of a facility as large and complex as a hospital. Developing these standards can often be a monumental task for most facility managers and hospital administrators for a variety of reasons. Trying to identify which items to standardize is difficult given that most hospital campuses are made up of a mixture of different building additions, built at different times, which all had different design concepts representing the era they were built in. Corporations operating several facilities also find it difficult to maintain design standards since each individual facility usually wants to manage its own.

The benefit of having building design standards for such things as door hardware, plumbing and lighting fixtures, finishes, and system components is simple. You get an efficient building by controlling what products are used. The facilities department will know how to operate, clean, and maintain these standardized items, the purchasing department can negotiate purchasing agreements with vendors making them cost less, and decisions can occur much faster in future renovations helping architects, designers, and engineers specify an already proven product each time a space is renovated, in many cases significantly cutting down on lead times.

Developing these standards can be as easy or difficult as you want to make it. Maintaining Web-based information is one way to make this an interactive process that will put data into the hands of those who need it instantly.

However, it is important to realize that any design standard is a living, fluid document. Products get discontinued; technology is forever changing, making newer more efficient systems available and preferences change with new administrators.

Once a set of design standards has been developed, consistent implementation and monitoring are essential. The facility manager needs to lead the charge in maintaining and administering them in order get the most cost efficient system working. Sharing them with the facilities staff is essential to making sure everyone is aware and using them. And getting these design standards in the hands of architects and engineers early in a project’s schedule should result in a successful building or renovation project, provide continuity of design and decrease the life cycle cost’s of the entire facility while increasing efficiency.

Kurt Lavaway, AIA is an Associate with The S/L/A/M Collaborative. As technical Job Captain of the healthcare market, he oversees the production of design development and construction documents. He is also responsible for implementing architectural standards throughout the firm.