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Asbestos, Arc Flash, and Hospital Construction

Blog 2 photo Arc FlashHospital construction is best described as organized chaos.  And as most healthcare facility directors realize, organized chaos can quickly devolve into disorganized chaos. 

Consider a demo subcontractor who broke contain and tracked asbestos-laden footprints through the hospital, or the electrical subcontractor who caused an arc flash (and subsequent blackout) by improperly hanging his flashlight. I have had the pleasure to experience both and can affirm that chaos was, is, and will always be part of healthcare construction. 

Clearly, the design and construction delivery system attempts to mitigate chaos. Architects who once hunched over drafting tables to create illustrations that would become air shafts and nurses’ stations now press keyboard buttons and cut and paste from past projects, creating reams of paper that become SDs, DDs, and CDs. Process and technological changes, including the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology, result in a more efficient, collaborative process that reduces owner risk and mitigates change order impact. 

And while technologies have evolved, it is on the soft-side, or people-side, where one long-time facility director has noted a change for the worse. “I’ve successfully employed partnering philosophies during construction since the 1980s, but today people want to create adversarial relationships. Confrontation and finger pointing are the new norm.”

Still another director laments “members of the design team are afraid to get their hands dirty and are quick to blame others when things go wrong. At the end of the day, my only concern is to get the job done.”   

Although consulting firm FMI predicts flat growth in healthcare construction this year, they expect a small increase in 2015 and an increasing trend toward rebuilding occupied, existing facilities; design, construction, ICRAs, and ILSMs will remain high on directors’ to-do lists. “Project managing construction is now the responsibility of my department and frankly, we can’t run the whole hospital and manage new construction,” reports a Northeast Facility Manager. 

We want to know, how has healthcare construction changed your role and impacted you as facility director or manager? How do you effectively manage construction and complete your other tasks? What are the issues that most impact you? Please tell us below, thank you.

Peter Martin

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