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kitchell hospital construction, AZRE Magazine May/June 2012

Technology Revolutionizes Hospital Construction

“Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.” — R. Buckminster Fuller 

With apologies to the sage Buckminster Fuller, the technology that is being developed for hospital construction is being done so for all the right reasons: to enhance quality, increase speed, decrease waste, save money and boost safety.

On the current, and extensive, renovation of Chandler Regional Medical Center, which features 180,000 SF of new construction anchored by a 5-story tower, Kitchell is harnessing the latest technologies, and refining new ones, that will continue to evolve as hospital construction unfolds until the opening in spring 2014. The project began with evidence-based design of the re-envisioned hospital featuring a triangle- shaped bed tower and a complete reorientation of the entrance.

Some of the challenges facing the hospital construction team include reorienting the main entrance, extensive infrastructure work, upgrading the central plant, doubling the emergency room and an intricate kitchen renovation — all while patients continue to receive uninterrupted care with no risk of infection. Fortunately, Kitchell has teamed with other professionals eager to utilize the latest technology to streamline the building process while enhancing quality and preserving safety. And it certainly helps that the entire hospital construction team is committed to tearing down the traditional “wall” between the design and construction sides, which is a win-win-win (owner, designer, construction firm — not to mention the building’s inhabitants) for all.

An integrated hospital construction team was established from the start that includes owners, architects, engineers, facility users, subcontractors and suppliers. Here are some tactics the team is deploying to achieve success:

  • Virtual model created three years out
    From the beginning, Kitchell, architect Orcutt | Winslow, Van Borem and Frank, Paragon and LEA Engineers designed and coordinated the project utilizing the most up-to-date BIM software. Integrating Archicad and REVIT into a federated model of the building (include an accompanying image) yielded a virtually constructed facility three-plus years in advance of the tower receiving its first patient.
  • Continuous collaboration courtesy of the Human Factor
    At the job site, a free-flowing workspace complete with design studios and interactive spaces facilitates innovation and consolidates the creation of intellectual property and management of construction. All of the hospital construction project’s principal players are empowered to make decisions and to commit resources on the spot, all in the same room, to keep momentum moving forward. Work studios are defined by activities to be tackled, not disciplines. This co-location “no silos” approach breaks down traditional barriers between engineers, designers and construction personnel while stimulating dialogue and innovation.
  • Lean and streamlined
    Each step of the building process is analyzed to promote continuous and reliable workflow throughout and identify ways to avert possible clogs in the project stream. As the project moves from design to construction, Kitchell is using the earlier planning and knowledge of technology to make the construction process as lean as possible. Pull planning, bringing subcontractors into the scheduling process, has been critical.Early BIM planning is setting the stage for prefabrication of interior corridors, systems and bathrooms. This is not your grandfather’s prefabrication — this is highly sophisticated off -site, controlled building of highly complex and technical components which, once built, are literally “plug and play.” The philosophy behind this strategy is to maintain quality and increase speed of construction while decreasing waste.
  • Full-scale (foam or wood) mock-ups
    Kitchell will construct a full-scale mock-up of the prefabrication areas to demonstrate not only what the finished rooms will look like but also what it will feel like to physically experience the spaces. Even the smallest details were designed in REVIT to enhance the authenticity of the final mock-up.
  • In the field
    Vela Systems enables real time data to be gathered and tasks assigned and transmitted right from where the work is happening via Kitchell’s mobile application on iPads. There is no distinction between in-the-office and in-the-field. RFIs, submittals, project specifications, drawings, etc. are available to everyone — including owners and subcontractors — for immediate, actionable information. Being able to identify and communicate potential issues saves time- and labor-intensive, costly rework caused by incomplete or old information.
  • BIM kiosks — 24/7 access to information without a computer
    Once the construction of the new patient tower is in full swing, several BIM kiosks will be activated so subcontractors will be able to pull up documents and the latest coordinated models throughout the hospital construction. These are all housed in a digital archive.

Decades ago, even just a few years ago, the type of technologies deployed to make design and hospital construction a seamless, flawless process were virtually unheard of. But without these advancements, the world of commercial design and construction would involve much more guesswork and risk. In today’s building world, the right technologies are being deployed for the right reasons.

For more information on Kitchell and their hospital construction projects, visit Kitchell’s website at kitchell.com.

AZRE Magazine May/June 2012