The conversion of empty buildings (particularly retail spaces) into healthcare facilities isn’t new, but just in the past few months it seems like these completed projects have multiplied exponentially. In our upcoming October issue, we include stories about a hospital, a wellness center, a medical center, and an outpatient clinic that had previously been (respectively) a department store furniture depository, a restaurant, and office buildings.  And we didn’t even do it on purpose!

Last month we had a Circuit City-turned-MOB and a new cancer center in a half-abandoned shopping mall. In Kentucky, a massive health center just opened inside a former Walmart store. These are just examples off the top of my head, and the growth of ambulatory care will certainly keep the conversion pipeline full for a while.

It seems like there’s no stone unturned in the search for ways to make healthcare as easily accessible as possible. Pop-up medical kiosks and mobile mammography already exist. I wonder what’s next for the built environment? Has anyone converted an old Rally’s or Burger King yet, putting the drive-through windows to use for administering throat cultures and immunizations? (Send me pictures, please.)

 These projects carry with them some pretty interesting challenges, and I’ve learned a lot in talking to and reading about those who’ve been tasked with wrestling those challenges into submission. The architects and engineers, in particular, must deal with major MEP and structural issues. Getting natural light into these spaces is a routine nightmare. But they’re doing it, and doing it well.

I’d like to keep this conversation going, especially the nuts-and-bolts part, because these conversion projects aren’t going anywhere. And bringing to light their construction and engineering issues is integral to the mission of Healthcare Design—just as integral as the architecture and interiors and the needs-driven goals behind them. Send me your projects and story ideas, and raise questions of your own via our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter outlets. Be sure to chime in and answer questions for others, too. Follow me on Twitter at HCD_KZeit, where I’ll share links and quotes pertaining to this topic and other design concerns. And let me know whom I should be following for more on these issues.