Not every project comes with the opportunity to push boundaries. But that’s exactly what GBBN Architecture (Cincinnati) was given when it partnered with Mercy Fairfield on the fit out of a fifth floor shell space into an acute care unit. The intention was to have the floor match the layout and aesthetic of the existing fourth floor. “There were a lot of conditions that were already established,” says Michael Lied, senior project manager, principal, at GBBN. “We said what can we push and what can we change?”

Those design ideas and strategies will be shared during HCD’s Education Day on June 27 in the webinar, “Transforming the Inpatient Experience: Modular and Other Design Strategies Every Hospital Should Consider.”

Speakers Lied and Amy Mees, senior interior designer/medical planner and senior associate, GBBN, recently talked with HCD on some of the innovations on display in the project.

For starters, the Mercy Fairfield project is the first inpatient facility in North America to give modular building systems a try, says Lied. “It’s used a lot in offices and potentially in outpatient settings where they’re looking to move spaces around. In this setting, we’re not going to move the walls so the other benefits had to outweigh the ability to move the walls.”

So what made this system appealing? One key was flexibility. With an eight week construction-to-final-project schedule, the owner was able to delay decisions on certain aspects of the design, such as whether to use a built-in nightstand in the headwall or a freestanding unit, until the project was already moving forward. In addition, Mees says the owner decided during construction to designate four of the rooms on the fifth floor as dialysis rooms—a change that could be accommodated by cutting a hole and installing an equipment box in the wall after it was already installed.

Additional benefits included a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty on the product, as well as potential cost savings. “The materials are about the same but the transportation is what costs more,” says Lied. But since the walls are constructed off-site, what you pay in transportation cost is saved in labor costs on-site, he adds.

The GBBN team also took the opportunity to incorporate new layout strategies into the project. For example, Mees says the patient rooms were redesigned to include an alcove entry that provides better privacy for patients as well as a semi-secluded space for staff to work. The footwalls were also modified so the TV, marker board, and artwork are integrated into the wall behind glass. “It’s all very smooth and that helps from an infection control standpoint,” Lied says.

In the corridors, work stations were given a makeover. “The nurse station at Mercy is traditionally behind glass and creates an ‘us-verses-you’ feel,” Mees says. “So we pushed them to consider opening up that station to be more inviting and welcoming to families, but still provide areas for privacy.”

The speakers will go into more depth on the project during the webinar as well as share some pros and cons to modular building systems, the steps to consider when deciding which products are right for your organization, and ideas for balancing open and private environments within a single setting.