Construction & De­sign Sur­vey shows new signs of life for health projects

Modern Healthcare - - Special Feature - An­dis Robeznieks

Af­ter a bru­tal year that saw nu­mer­ous projects put on the shelf, ex­perts be­lieve the health­care construction in­dus­try is now on some­thing of a re­bound, but add that it prob­a­bly won’t be back in full swing un­til late this year at the very ear­li­est.

They re­port that a lot of plan­ning is tak­ing place that won’t re­sult in ac­tual construction for sev­eral months—if not un­til next year. When work starts up again, the new fa­cil­i­ties be­ing built will have a fo­cus on flex­i­bil­ity, smooth work­flow, “green” construction and “ev­i­denced-based de­sign”—which aims to cre­ate a heal­ing en­vi­ron­ment while pro­mot­ing pa­tient and staff safety.

Among the top 10 construction man­age­ment com­pa­nies in Mod­ern Health­care’s 31st an­nual Construction & De­sign Sur­vey, four com­pa­nies re­ported re­duced project dol­lar vol­ume in 2009 com­pared with the pre­vi­ous year, and six of them re­ported a re­duc­tion in the square footage of their projects.

An­other trend that ex­perts saw last year was how health­care helped prop up the ail­ing construction in­dus­try as a whole, and they say this should con­tinue in 2010, but much of that aid is com­ing from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment build­ing new Vet­er­ans Af­fairs and De­fense Depart­ment hos­pi­tals.

The VA’s fis­cal 2011 bud­get re­quest seeks more than $1.4 bil­lion for health­care construction and adds to the al­most $1.1 bil­lion pre­vi­ously funded through 2010 for ma­jor projects in Aurora, Colo.; Palo Alto, Calif.; and New Orleans. Par­tial fund­ing is also re­quested for fu­ture projects in Omaha, Neb., and Alameda, Calif.

Construction on one of the more sig­nif­i­cant fed­eral projects, the $995 mil­lion South­east Louisiana Vet­er­ans Health Care Sys­tem med­i­cal cen­ter re­place­ment in New Orleans, is ex­pected to get started in Au­gust. Ac­cord­ing to Colum­bus, Ohio-based NBBJ ar­chi­tects, the new fa­cil­ity will have 200 beds and 300 out­pa­tient exam rooms, plus re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and men­tal health ser­vices. It will pro­vide care for more than 2,000 vet­er­ans a day.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2011 VA bud­get re­quest, a construction con­tract is sched­uled to be awarded this June for a $800 mil­lion ter­tiarycare fa­cil­ity with 107 hospi­tal beds and a 60bed “com­mu­nity liv­ing cen­ter” out­side of Den­ver. The project is sched­uled to be com­pleted in Septem­ber 2013.

The ac­tive mil­i­tary health­care construction plan for fis­cal 2011 in­cludes fund­ing that to­tals $794.7 mil­lion for projects through­out the coun­try plus clin­ics and hos­pi­tals in Ger­many, Guam and South Korea. (The 2010 plan had $964.7 mil­lion worth of projects.) The largest project on the list is $162.5 mil­lion worth of fund­ing for a $608 mil­lion am­bu­la­tory-care cen­ter to sup­port the new San An­to­nio Mil­i­tary Med­i­cal Cen­ter, South Cam­pus, at Lack­land Air Force Base. The am­bu­la­tory-care cen­ter will even­tu­ally re­place the 1957-vin­tage Wil­ford Hall Med­i­cal Cen­ter, whose de­fi­cien­cies, doc­u­ments say, would cost more than $570 mil­lion to fix. Construction is ex­pected to be­gin in March 2011 and be com­pleted in April 2013.

“Those two agen­cies are in­vest­ing bil­lions of dol­lars,” says James Brown­rigg, Turner Construction Co. vice pres­i­dent and health­care di­rec­tor. “The num­ber of projects in the pub­lic sec­tor is buoy­ing the pri­vate sec­tor.”

That’s one rea­son why build­ing and de­sign com­pa­nies that hadn’t been pre­vi­ously in­volved in health­care construction are looking to get into it. Of the 186 com­pa­nies par­tic­i­pat­ing in this year’s Construction & De­sign Sur­vey, 140 say they saw in­creased com­pe­ti­tion from com­pa­nies not tra­di­tion­ally in­volved in health­care.

Doug Wig­nall, na­tional health­care di­rec­tor for Omaha-based HDR Ar­chi­tec­ture, the high­est-rank­ing ar­chi­tec­tural firm in the sur­vey, re­ports that his com­pany had its sec­ond­straight record-break­ing year. The com­pany fin­ished with nearly $6.33 bil­lion in work last year, which was up 7.1% from the al­most $5.91 bil­lion it per­formed in 2008.

Wig­nall cred­its the com­pany’s de­ci­sion to di­ver­sify “at the right time in the right places” and winning the “largest com­mis­sion in the coun­try” last year for its suc­cess. The big do­mes­tic con­tract that HDR landed was for the new $1.27 bil­lion, 862-bed Park­land Hospi­tal in Dal­las. Ground­break­ing is ex­pected to

Waste re­duc­tion and re­cy­cling ef­forts dur­ing construction of Aurora Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Sum­mit (Wis.) earned the fa­cil­ity the Big Di­verter Award.

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