Several healthcare facilities across the United States are being built in record time, thanks, in part, to the implementation of advanced multi-trade prefabrication techniques. By assembling components like MEP infrastructure, headwalls, bathrooms, patient rooms, and exterior elements offsite in a controlled environment, companies can compress project schedules by performing multiple construction activities in parallel.
By assembling components like MEP infrastructure, headwalls, bathrooms, patient rooms, and exterior elements offsite in a controlled environment, companies can compress project schedules by performing multiple construction activities in parallel.
Grant Warner – CEO, Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (AIQS)
Depending on the completeness of the prefabricated element, the client and design team must make firm design decisions and material choices much earlier in the planning process. Bathroom pods, for instance, often come complete with lighting elements, wall and floor tiles, and faucets and fixtures.
Bathroom pods have become a popular prefabrication approach for healthcare building teams because of the potentially sizable schedule savings. For example, the project schedule for the Exempla St. Joseph Heritage Hospital in Denver was reduced by 10 weeks by prefabricating the facility’s 440 bathrooms.
The installation of bathroom pods reduces onsite labour requirements in a time of skilled labour shortage, as there are more skilled tradespersons and material movements involved in bathroom construction per square metre than any other area of the building.
At the St. Joseph Hospital, the overhead mechanical racks housing the hospital’s mechanical piping, ductwork, cable trays, electrical conduit, lighting conduit, and pneumatic tubing – basically everything but the fire sprinkler infrastructure, were all prefabricated. Each section was custom designed and fabricated, and shipped to the job site, where it was wheeled to its precise location and lifted into place. The process removed as many as 10 trades from the job site and into the prefab warehouse nearby.
Prefabrication requires more coordination by the project team and, in most cases, fundamental changes to the way a traditional project team works. Early collaboration of the team is paramount if you want to be able to articulate to the designers what can be prefabricated and what we will deliver the most value. This means the contractor, subcontractors, and even the prefab manufacturers should have a seat at the design table. Certain aspects of prefabrication can have significant impacts on the design, such as how walls are to be framed, the routing of mechanical and electrical systems, layout of interstitial spaces, and openings for components like headwalls.
In Australia, prefabricated ensuite pods were included in the Blacktown Hospital project, but were not adopted for Gosford Hospital due to the additional construction costs it would generate.
Utilisation of the BIM model must also include the necessary content to be able to produce working drawings to support prefabrication. This means aiming for LOD 400 or better when modeling prefab elements. That means the model elements should be graphically represented within the model as a specific system, object, or assembly in terms of size, shape, location, quantity, and orientation, with detailing, fabrication, assembly, and installation information. ■