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.

Roger Herritz is senior vice president and national healthcare lead for project and development services at JLL, a real estate services firm (Chicago).

Here, he shares his thoughts on the benefits of facility prototypes, supporting flexibility through design, and how VR can improve the design and construction process.


  1. Prototypes

Numerous health systems are designing prototypes for their facilities because of the advantages in schedule, cost, and operations. Establishing prototypes can significantly reduce the overall schedule to open a new facility. Pre-determining the design, specifications, materials, and potential suppliers enables a project to expedite through the planning and design phases and advance quickly into the permitting and construction phases. Additionally, utilizing a consistent design also reduces architecture and engineering costs, provides predictable construction cost benchmarks, and makes it easier for patients and staff to navigate facilities with similar layouts and features.

  1. Flexible/adaptable design and construction

Facing an uncertain future, health systems are increasingly striving to build facilities that are flexible and adaptable to changes, such as shifts in patient volumes, types of patients, services provided, and medical technology advancements. Some of the design strategies being used to answer this need are modular structural grids and standardized room sizes. Building in flexibility for future expansion should also be considered to help extend the life of the facility and improve its overall ROI. For example, locating “soft” space such as offices next to “hard” space like surgery and lab departments, which will likely need to expand, can facilitate easier expansions. Flexible features like infrastructure laterals/stubs and MEP rough-ins can accommodate changes in room updates or usage.

  1. Benefits of prefabrication

Prefabrication was used historically for large projects with a significant amount of repetitive rooms, such as hotels, student housing, and apartments. Now we’re seeing this technique being used more in healthcare for elements such as fire sprinkler systems, hospital bathroom units and headwalls, HVAC ducting, and MEP racks. In addition to reducing the construction schedule, prefabrication can give the project team better quality control inside a manufacturing facility, lower costs by using factory labor instead of skilled construction labor (which is in short supply), and provide workers with safer working conditions on the factory floor instead of outdoors on an elevated platform. Relocating prefabrication activities offsite can also reduce the amount of staging needed at the construction site.

  1. Smaller facilities=increasing access

A proliferation of smaller healthcare facilities is providing better access in convenient locations. Patients are visiting more urgent care centers, dialysis centers, primary care clinics, freestanding emergency departments, and microhospitals. These new acute care facilities are popping up as new freestanding locations as well as within existing malls or retail settings. Developing these smaller facilities off-campus enables healthcare systems to provide services faster and avoid further congestion of their main campuses.

  1. Designing with VR

Virtual Reality (VR) technology is helping healthcare stakeholders envision the design of healthcare facilities in ways that aren’t possible with 2-D plans or even 3-D models. The ability to visualize complex spaces—such as operating rooms and emergency departments—with VR provides clients with a better understanding of the scale and orientation of the room’s components, from casework to outlet locations. This enhanced understanding enables the viewer to provide better feedback, accelerates decision-making, and leads to fewer changes later in the design or construction stages.

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