In this series, Healthcare Design asks leading healthcare design professionals, firms, and owners to tell us what’s got their attention and share some ideas on the subject.

Richard Steimel, senior vice president and principal in charge, healthcare, at Lendlease (New York), shares his thoughts on prefabrication and new technologies and methods to increase speed to market.


  1. Acceleration of prefabrication

Prefabrication and modular construction’s importance to the construction process was already expanding rapidly pre-pandemic. However, its non-linear format, which allows it to start before project teams get access to a space or start construction, proved to be an invaluable solution for many projects during the pandemic as it saves time, enhances safety and quality, reduces waste, and limits the number of workers in the field, which keeps exposure levels to a minimum. Speed to market and exposure reduction became even more critical during the pandemic and I expect it will continue, further solidifying prefabrication’s place in the healthcare design sector.


  1. Technology proficiency

Having architects, engineers, and construction managers who are technologically sound makes the planning, design, and construction process more efficient and eliminates costly mistakes in the field. This is evident in some of the current technology tools designers are utilizing. For example, utilizing laser scanning to capture in-wall mechanical, electrical, and plumbing conditions means less invasive/physically probing into the walls and ceilings of operating hospitals. Laser scanning also limits the amount of time and personal contact needed to survey in and around occupied buildings, which is helpful during the pandemic. Additionally, the use of virtual reality mock-ups reduces the need for costly physical mock-ups. Finally, while not new, the evolution of clash detection through virtual design and construction/building information modeling increasingly ensures everything comes together without incident in the field.


  1. Working together

Technology alone can’t enhance the healthcare design and construction process. You need the people and process that guide technology working together. This happens most effectively when the client, architect, engineers, construction manager, and trades are collaborating as early in the planning and design process as possible. Replacing the traditional design-bid–build delivery process with integrated project delivery allows key project elements like constructability, budget, schedule, modeling, shop drawings, and logistics to be set early and stay on target throughout each subsequent project phase. This can help eliminate surprises, costly mistakes, and delays in the field.


  1. COVID-19’s lasting impact

While no one wants to think about the next pandemic, from a healthcare design perspective, we expect some of the innovative programming space layout changes being made today will stay for the long-term. For example, the use of separate entrances for patients, adults, and pediatrics will continue to help separate and isolate patients as soon as they walk through the front door to mitigate any potential infection spread. Moving further into the hospital, department-specific waiting areas will all become negatively pressurized to reduce the chance of spreading an infection and safeguard healthcare providers and others in the waiting areas. Additionally, patient rooms will be enlarged to accommodate surge beds. We’re also seeing more versatility in controlling the pressurization of bed units and entire floors, which again provides a higher level of containment of the patients and protection to the hospital.


  1. Increasing speed to market

Traditional project planning, delivery, and execution methods are very structured. While suitable for larger, more conventional projects, these methods aren’t nimble enough to establish more expedited completion timelines like those necessitated by the pandemic. To address that, many projects took a unified team approach, with a much greater frequency of meetings with a running list of priorities, which led to a more immediate resolution of obstacles and resulted in faster project completion. We continue to champion building more flexibility into the entire construction process, such as incorporating more prefabricated components for fit out, including headwalls, footwalls, operating room ceilings, and medical gas manifolds. Utilizing preassembled units rather than accommodating materials that have to be built on-site leads to an accelerated schedule and more aggressive completion dates.


Want to share your Top 5? Contact Managing Editor Tracey Walker at for submission instructions.