MTX Contracts works closely with the healthcare industry. The infrastructure needs of our medical professionals are often urgent and are rarely generously funded.
There is a need for increased efficiency and productivity between architects, contractors and subcontractors. There is also a shortage of skilled labour, with the hire of artisan subcontractors causing a significant delay in on-site production. The healthcare industry has suffered more than other sectors because of the complexity of the buildings required, which demand a higher level of skill than more conventional units.
The level of need for infrastructure requires a revolution. The revolution is prefabrication.
Efficient team selection
Prefabrication methods allow for the early selection of a team that can deliver the complex requirements of healthcare. The architects, contractors and subcontractors can be hired together at the beginning of the process and can be present at the initial planning of the project. Prefabrication sees this collaboration as a normal part of the practice of construction. In a traditional bricks and mortar approach, the architect is often hired first, then the contractor, then the subcontractors – if available. At each stage, there is a delay. The aims, goals and vision are handed like a baton from one group of workers to the next.
Prefabrication does not work in this way, as it eliminates these silos of expertise. The buildings are constructed offsite in a factory-like process. All the professionals who work on these units are already employed under the same roof. They are skilled in collaboration because they are part of the same team who work together every day. There is no throwing of the project from one person to the next, with the shifting sense of accountability and the inherent communication problems. With prefabrication, the project is owned by the whole team who share a single location.
Efficiency in decision-making
The configuration, materials and the finishing touches to the healthcare facilities are determined at the start of the project. This early decision making is often visualised for the owners using virtual reality and physical mock-up. Before the first piece of steel is cast, the last screw has been considered. With such a firm understanding of outcomes, the prefabrication unit is delivered on schedule.
The creation of models to work from is a fundamental practice within prefabrication. The architects work with the trades to build models for best practice that can be replicated. As this is a factory-style methodology, the teams must work together to construct models of work that can be done time and again along the production line. All team members will be invested in the creation of these models because the quality and ease of the work they do each day rely on healthy decision-making from the start.
Standardisation in the healthcare industry
Much time and money can be saved for healthcare providers if lessons can be learned and reapplied from one project to the next. A company specialising in prefabrication for healthcare will have worked with multiple suppliers and worked together to engineer solutions. As prefabrication works on standardisation of practices, these same solutions can then be applied to future projects. With this level of expertise, engineers can begin to build a body of knowledge of outstanding practice. Successful project delivery adds to this bank of understanding, and eventually, architects within prefabrication firms can become masters of their trade once again.
A secure construction workforce
With the scarcity of skilled artisans in construction, this specialist expertise in healthcare construction could revolutionise healthcare infrastructure. Workers in prefabrication work every day in the same building, in office hours, under the protection of a roof. The weather has no impact on their ability to work, so they enjoy pay and job security in equal measure. This offers the healthcare sector a secure construction workforce.
It can also form the foundation for a sustainable workforce. As the site is always open, as there are always projects running along the production line, this can be the site of a vocational training programme. This means the mastery of healthcare construction can be replicated from one generation of craftspeople to the next, creating a sustainable workforce of skilled artisans.
The offsite construction of modules to set specification holds many benefits for the healthcare industry. The reduction of disruption, the low running costs and the speed of delivery are all significant. However, more interesting is the chance to develop a body of professional engineering knowledge that could make healthcare construction more effective and efficient.