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Healthcare Construction – The More Digital We Make It, the Better the Outcomes

How long does it take to design and build a 1000 bed hospital from scratch? Before Covid-19, not many people would have ventured an answer of ten days. But now we know what’s possible (as proven in Wuhan), wouldn’t it be unacceptable to settle for old methods and limitations?

An incredible team of engineers, designers and contractors pulled off the remarkable feat of the ten-day hospital build at the start of the pandemic. What lessons can we learn from their experience – other than maybe to be more ambitious with healthcare building programmes?

The most important lesson is to understand the value of digital tools. In particular, the value in making the process as digital as possible, extending from the earliest stages of design, through the construction phase and beyond. Digital tools can hold the whole process together, improve communications, boost efficiency at each stage and make transitions between phases seamless. The net result is projects that are easier to manage, and are delivered faster and with better outcomes for all stakeholders.

New Facilities in Weeks, Not Months

Perhaps we don’t need to build a new hospital in ten days, but there’s no reason why we can’t achieve it in weeks, rather than months or even years. There is a lot of healthcare construction to be done. Hospitals need more capacity and flexibility and there’s a drive to relocate many treatments into community settings. We need to work efficiently and intelligently to create the right buildings in the right places.

It would seem nonsensical to be using anything other than offsite construction for healthcare building projects. Methods such as panelised modular builds are inherently digital. The tools used integrate the design and manufacturing processes, allowing specialists to collaborate easily without having to be in the same place.

Offsite manufacturing eliminates the need for a manual interpretation and realisation of the design once the project hits the site. It’s a question of assembling a kit of precision-made parts in a controlled sequence.

Methods such as panelised offsite are design-led. The integrated design, manufacture and installation process eliminates the cost and timing risks inherent in traditional builds. Ambitious designs can be turned into reality within a controlled and efficient process. Surely this is the best way forward.

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