Hospital construction focused on environment, technology

By Molly Merrill
10:01 AM

Rather than focusing on new construction, health systems are renovating or expanding with an eye toward IT advancement and green construction, according to a survey conducted by Health Facilities Management magazine and the American Society for Healthcare Engineering.

The gradual improvement in the hospital construction market comes after a steep downturn that accompanied the nation's recession in 2009, which was only a year removed from healthcare's high-water mark in construction in 2008. Health systems able to pursue construction and renovation projects are cautious in light of a changing economic and healthcare landscape, experts say.

According to the survey, 26.1 percent of the respondents are building now, with renovation or expansion accounting for 73 percent of those projects. Of the rest, about 15 percent involve new construction and 11.6 percent involve replacement facilities. Many of the additions or modernization projects are for emergency departments, imaging, surgery areas or cancer centers.

The survey of 598 hospitals indicates they are working to update or replace infrastructure to better serve patients and transition to greater use of information technology. More than one in four are building service systems to accommodate the needs of electronic health records. One third of those surveyed are replacing or upgrading air handlers or ventilation systems. One in five is upgrading a data center or planning to do so.

[See also: Data center projects require extraordinary planning, technical expertise.]

Hospitals are continuing to add features that satisfy patients and families, the survey indicates. Along with wireless technologies, individual room temperature controls and educational systems are being incorporated into about a third or more of new rooms.

[See also: Hospitals recognized for 'green' leadership.]

Hospitals are also trying to be more environmentally friendly by using green building materials. More than two out of three respondents are specifying green materials in most or all of their construction projects. About 60 percent also said their organization evaluates the cost/benefit of green construction methods for building projects.

Read the full survey here.