Whenever I talk to firms or facility owners about projects they’re working on, I always enjoy asking whether mock-ups were used in the design process.

More so, I’m interested to hear whether the pendulum is swinging toward physical or virtual mock-ups. I tend to find that while both are often used, industry experts tend to prefer one over the other—and, from there, it just depends on the individual.

I enjoyed this recent article from by Julie Greicius from Inside Stanford Medicine. Greicius explores the concept of full-scale hospital room mock-ups and how they are being used in the process of building the new Stanford Hospital and expanding Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

Here’s a great quote from Greicius's article (as well as the inspiration behind my blog title): “’They didn’t send the space shuttle off without building models, testing and modifying,’ said Michael Edwards, MD, chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Packard Children’s. ‘We may not be as complex as the shuttle, but the process is still important to ensuring safety and effectiveness.’”

For this particular project, rooms were physically mocked up to include everything the real ones will, and staff—including physicians, nurses, and others—were able to walk through and offer insight.

However, what I found really interesting in this case were examples given regarding how the mock-ups helped the construction teams see how the headwalls came together regarding wiring and data infrastructure, as well as how the hybrid ORs would be designed and the ways in which vendors joined the designers to make necessary tweaks.

This is where I tend to hear the virtual mock-ups are irreplaceable—when it comes to highly complicated spaces that are difficult to physically mock-up and where the ability to make real time changes while assessing them is priceless.

Except, here’s a case of the physical space apparently providing adequate testing grounds, even for a hybrid OR.

So what about you? Do you prefer to touch, feel, and walk through a space to judge its design and how to construct it, or do you prefer the deep read that a virtual mock-up provides and the real time changes that can be made?