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The Sky’s the Limit: Vertical Expansion for Healthcare Facilities


Vertical expansion, the process of adding levels to a finished building, is one of the most complex project types when it comes to healthcare construction. However, hospitals do not have the option of shutting down operations to complete an expansion. In addition, increasingly small sites that prevent traditional horizontal expansion mean that going vertical is often the only option. With expert planning and consideration of a few critical points, hospitals can remain fully operational during all phases of the project.

Existing Structure Evaluation

When considering a vertical expansion, the contractor and design team must meticulously evaluate the hospital in its current state. A strong focus on the existing structure and utilities helps to uncover potential issues and gives the project team a general understanding of what is needed to start moving vertically. Some aspects of evaluation include:

Virtual Design and Construction Coordination

Involving VDC techniques early in the design process provides critical information up front that saves time and money. Outputs such as 3D models and virtual reality mock-ups inform the planning, design, and construction of the expansion. They also provide context for what a space will look and feel like. Some VDC technologies include:

Operations Consideration

During a large-scale renovation, it’s important to go beyond the building and structures to consider how occupants are affected. In a hospital setting, noise and vibrations can disturb vulnerable patients as well as staff. Vibrations from construction can also impact sensitive equipment such as CT scanners and MRIs. It’s critical to develop a detailed logistics plan to minimize these impacts. If a portion of the project will create a high level of noise, coordination with hospital management should take place beforehand to ensure it’s done at the least intrusive time.

Scheduling Flexibility

Vertical expansion is a complicated process, so expect the unexpected and add flexibility to the schedule early on. Additional measures free up space or allow hospital functions to resume away from high traffic construction zones. Some best practices include:

The key to a successful vertical expansion is to plan ahead. Fully vetting existing structures and taking patient outcomes and potential scheduling setbacks into consideration allow for hospitals to maintain operations with minimal disturbance. With the planning and management of an experienced team, the sky’s the limit for healthcare facilities looking to expand.

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