Healthcare construction in general, and renovation projects in particular, are highly complex. An array of complicated medical gas and mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems warrants the early involvement of specialty contractors who offer unique value to project teams.
The early onboarding of specialty contractors in a healthcare renovation project’s lifecycle can play a crucial role in completing projects safely, in a timely manner and with a high level of quality. In a design-assist model, invaluable information can be uncovered through a specialty contractor’s preconstruction site investigation, and the entire team can better plan and prepare for the construction phase through the contractor’s delivery of constructability, budgeting and, eventually, Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) services.
Peeling back the layers of an existing healthcare facility reveals what cannot be seen on the surface and the feasibility of the space compared to the design intent. There often is a large amount of MEP infrastructure (in above-ceiling spaces and mechanical rooms, for example) required to achieve and maintain the proper environment. In existing and aging facilities, the real estate available for this infrastructure is limited and in high demand.
Additionally, when working in occupied spaces, construction must be sequenced to best fit the needs of clients and their patients. For instance, as we created our plan of approach to renovate the first-floor emergency and trauma center at Harris Health System’s Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, with the input of trades, we were able to set a complex, multi-phased schedule that will minimize interference and unplanned disruptions to the hospital’s ongoing operations.
Though construction is just beginning, bringing on specialty contractors early in the design process has already proven tremendously valuable; the ability to investigate existing conditions and provide constructability and scheduling feedback and solutions has established a more accurate and inclusive GMP and fewer anticipated change orders because we know more about the project.
The awarding of key trade jobs should be based on qualifications, including safety and quality control, not just price. We have found time and time again that successful partnerships with specialty contractors nearly always involve:
• A preconstruction opportunity – getting in on the ground floor with the design team at the very beginning.
• Driving factors that make it beneficial to the project – large scope, complex renovation, high level of coordination, multiple phases, etc.
• Willing partnership amongst all team members – effective communication and a collaborative delivery method and environment with a strong level of trust and performance. The early engagement aspect of this delivery method lends itself to key trades being heavily invested in the process and the team.
Through their expertise and efficiency, qualified specialty contractors yield significant return on investment, providing owners the best value for their projects.
Matt Elliott, CPC, is a healthcare project executive with SpawGlass, a Texas-based general contractor, construction manager, design/builder and civil contractor.
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