Pre-fab construction praised as time-saver

Problems with the soil on the site of a new 12-story addition to the Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, set the $135 million project back some 15 weeks, Bob Eling, the hospital’s director of strategic construction, told attendees at the American College of Healthcare Executives annual congress in Chicago. However, through the use of pre-fabrication construction methods, they were able to gain eight of those weeks back, Eling said.

In a program titled “Pre-fabrication: An Innovative and Efficient Approach to Construction Projects,” Eling—along with Nikki Burns, the hospital’s manager for the addition, and Marty Corrado, senior superintendent for Skanska USA Building—presented a case study of the project in which each patient room’s headwall, footwall and bathroom were assembled as a single unit in an off-site warehouse—as were 120 corridor ceiling racks that contained an intricate assemblage of electrical conduits, medical gas pipes, plumbing and sprinkler systems

Corrado compared the ease of assembling the ceiling racks indoors as opposed to standing on a ladder in an open space on the ninth story in 5-degree weather with the winding whipping against you. “This is where the industry is going,” he said.

The ceiling racks are designed with the use of building information modeling technology, which allows for the most efficient use of the overhead area while avoiding conflicts where faulty designs may accidentally have piping and conduit competing for the same space with support beams.

The hospital’s maintenance crew was briefed on the project, Corrado said. He added, while hospital maintenance teams are often a tough bunch to please, “These guys loved it.”

Use of the building information modeling technology and sample mock-up rooms also helped nurse suggestions to be incorporated into the design. “You need user input,” Eling said. “It’s been fun for me.”

Burns said incorporating staff ideas was one of the most exciting aspects of the project. “We cannot wait until the building opens,” she said.

The new addition, which is expected to open in nine months with 178 private patient rooms, has 16-foot-wide corridors, and Corrado said 8-by-20 foot units were preassembled, explaining that this size was chosen because it was the largest the units could be and still be able to be transported on a truck without a special permit.

All three presenters said the process has boosted the quality of the construction, but unfortunately, the term “pre-fab construction” conjures up images of just the opposite.

“You need to sell that,” Eling said of the quality-boosting aspects, “because there are misconceptions.”

Corrado agreed.

“‘Pre-fab,’ everyone always associates it with mobile homes,” he said. “ ‘Pre-fab,’ I don’t like the term, but I just became a ‘grandpa,’ and I don’t like that term either.”