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Prefabrication in Active Hospitals: An Achievable Challenge

Posted By Trevor Mann On September 15, 2020

While working in a healthcare environment, we have discovered different techniques utilizing prefabrication to optimize safety, minimize the disruption to the customers daily activities, and save on operation cost and schedule. Each market has its own challenges, but for healthcare projects, our teams are often collaborating with customers in an active and sensitive environment.

Although prefabrication is a common technique, it takes close communication, coordination, and planning upfront for it to be a successful process. Because of the upfront communication and coordination, the hospital staff can provide more input on the best layouts for optimal functionality of the end product.

Here are a few recent projects where prefabrication has played a key role in the success on the job.

Prefabricated Headwalls

One of our recent projects at UnityPoint Health – Meriter included remodeling 36 ICU rooms and 48 patient care rooms. We were faced with the challenge of finding ways to accelerate the schedule while creating a simpler installation process. Our solution was to prefabricate the headwalls which led to an increase in consistency and overall cost savings. The involved upfront coordination allowed for buy-in from hospital staff on placement of components in the headwalls. It is important to seek input from the end user who will be using the finished product the most. Although this was our first-time doing Amico headwalls at UnityPoint Health – Meriter, the crew was successful in their implementation.

Installing prefabricated headwalls allowed our crews to reduce cost and minimize the number of connections. At the project start, we faced a few challenges while figuring out the most efficient way to install the headwalls in the patient rooms. Tweaks were made to the height of the conduit to match the height above ceiling. Because the space has different types of patient rooms, we had to find the best processes for each room type. One of the benefits of the prefabricated headwalls is that general patient rooms can be converted into ICU rooms by switching out the panel.

Seven Stories High

The pharmacy at UW Health 1 S. Park had become outdated and needed a remodel to meet code standards. The challenge? The pharmacy was located on the fourth floor of a seven-floor building and required a new air handler. To achieve this project on time and within budget, our team relied on close communication, coordination, and planning upfront and throughout the process.

To save time and stay under budget, the team decided to prefabricate the structure of the HVAC unit which houses the duct work, two exhausts and one supply wrapped in insulation. The 40-ft-long, 8,600 lbs structure needed to be lifted over an occupied building during installation. To achieve this, the crew worked closely with the shop to verify field dimensions to ensure the unit would fit. There was as little as half an inch of tolerance at the point of install. The unit was set in one day with little to no disruption to the customers daily activities.

Kitting of Materials

At Advocate Aurora Health Sinai Medical Center we have used prefabrication for kitting door hardware and bathroom accessories. This may seem small, but can make quite an impact on a project, especially on a congested jobsite within an occupied facility that cannot have disruptions. The major benefits to door kitting are that it eliminates the need for a hardware storage room on site and it ensures each door has the correct parts and pieces before arriving on site.

Prefabrication is Possible

Although it can be a daunting task up front to consider how to utilize prefabrication in an active healthcare environment, it is possible and will alleviate disruptions to the facilities day to day operations during construction. We are constantly working to find new ways to improve our processes and try new techniques. To learn more about our different prefabrication options available, please reach out to Trevor Mann at

Filed Under Healthcare, JP Cullen