Contractor Specialization: Medical Office Facilities

Medical Office Facilities

Building a medical office facility used to be fairly predictable. Find some land near a hospital and put up a box-shaped building.

”Size it for maximum leasing flexibility, make it as long and tall as the site or pocketbook would allow, wrap it in a comfortable but not trendy façade, and sign up doctors and fit it out as discrete offices in a leased or condo arrangement,” Patrick Fugeman, AIA, director of design and construction for Delaware’s Christiana Care Health System, told Building Design and Construction.

These days, building medical office facilities is not quite that simple. Medical buildings are now considered to be part of a larger framework -- a continuum of care that involves a variety of development models, changes in the tenant mix, more accommodations for technology, and locations that may be more convenient for patients but further from a hospital campus. Contractors looking to get in on the buzz need to know almost as much about healthcare trends and delivery as they do about construction details.

High Demand For Medical Office Buildings

Outpatient medical real estate development was a $7.7 billion market in 2016, according to a March 2017 survey by Revista, which specializes in property data for the healthcare building industry, and Healthcare Real Estate Insights. The report found that approximately 19.4 million square feet of outpatient projects were developed in 2016. Another 17.3 million square feet are in the works this year. Some 72 percent of all medical facility projects due to be completed in 2017 are ambulatory facilities. 

The value of the in-process projects was estimated at $6.5 billion. Including hospitals, the healthcare real estate sector approaches $1 trillion, Revista reported.

Locations that include California, Texas, Illinois, New York and Florida are seeing considerably more medical office construction than other states, the global real estate services company Colliers International said.

Trends in Medical Office Building Construction

Today, the focus for new medical office facilities is in both form and function. The buildings need to convey positive messages to patients and provide clues about the organization and type of medical care being provided, the National Institute of Building Science said.

“Ideally, that message is one that conveys welcoming, caring, comfort, and compassion, commitment to patient well-being and safety, where stress is relieved, refuge is provided, respect is reciprocated, competence is symbolized, way-finding is facilitated and families are accommodated,” the organization said.

Like facilities of the past, the newest medical buildings begin with structural steel frame construction on concrete slabs. However, unlike their predecessors, new buildings must include space for the continuing evolution of technology. This additional space includes room for expanded cable routing and dedicated data rooms to support on-site servers

With the increased expenditures that come from the new technology, clients want new facilities to have non-water-based fire protection systems, including fire-resistant ceiling tiles.  Also, many facilities are using specialized paint with anti-microbial properties and copper door handles, sinks and cabinet pulls to fight against germs.

Interior spaces will include larger exam rooms, staff training spaces and well-equipped break areas. At the same time, waiting rooms will become a thing of the past.

“Waiting as we know it is on its way out the door,” Healthcare Design magazine said. “Additionally, spaces identified for waiting in more public areas may also be repurposed with a “healthcare education” approach. Expect this new waiting room space to contain upgraded furniture and finishes, with multiple flat screens and areas for personal teaching and data entry.”

The Treatment Is In The Details

Medical office buildings also have a number of industry-specific requirements. Contractors should have a thorough grounding in subjects that include medical gasses, lead linings or RF shielding needed to block radio frequency electromagnetic radiation, and such details as specialized windows and doors.

Other medical building necessities may include:

  • Dependable electricity for life safety, critical systems and equipment.
  • Medical-grade HVAC and ventilation systems to ensure a flow of clean and fresh air while being energy efficient.
  • Single floor or low-rise structures for easy patient and equipment access.
  • Treatment-specific building requirements. For example, an MRI suite would need reinforced floors and a large, clear path to move the equipment into place.
  • Easy access for patients, which may mean automatic sliding doors, wider doors and hallways and easily accessible routes for wheelchairs and walkers.
  • Dust and infection control and prevention both during and after construction to cut back on pollutants.

Medical office construction is a complex and evolving discipline. Contractors willing to learn the details of the field and study the trends and needs of the current healthcare market can find the medical office specialty to be the right prescription for their business.

About GMS

Founded in 1971, GMS operates a nationwide network of locally managed yards serving contractors, builders and do-it-yourself builders. The company’s extensive offerings include gypsum wallboard and acoustical products, as well as building materials, such as FRP boards, metal framing, insulation, exterior insulation and finish systems, ready-mix joint compound and tools.

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