In this installment of our Ask an Engineering Expert series, Timothy Larson P.E., Principal Officer at RTM Engineering Consultants, answers the question: What’s a trend you see today in the design of hospital, healthcare, and medical campus structures, and what are the challenges you face that are particular to designing these types of facilities?
A trend that we see more of in the healthcare industry is a transition away from traditional, full-scale hospitals – and more toward facilities that meet a specific patient or community need.
For example, we frequently design single buildings that have mixed occupancies. A building might combine an emergency department and an ambulatory surgery center; another may also add a suite of medical offices. While these healthcare facilities don’t offer the full capabilities of a hospital, they are designed to provide important and timely care for patients who live nearby. If the nearest large hospital is an hour’s drive away, it’s beneficial for residents to have access to immediate local care.
The biggest challenge for these types of facilities is designing the systems to meet each occupancy’s requirements and comply with all necessary codes – because they are often very different. Mandatory emergency power systems, for instance, vary depending on the type of occupancy.
A medical office or an outpatient clinic doesn’t provide 24-hour care for patients, so it isn’t required to have a generator-supplied emergency power system. It only needs to power life safety capabilities, such as fire alarms and emergency lighting. An ambulatory surgery center, however, must maintain a similar emergency power system as an urgent care center or an emergency department. It must provide three branches of emergency power: life safety, critical power, and equipment, each within a separate system.
As engineers, our task is to develop a strategy that equips each space with the emergency power it requires, while looking for ways to minimize energy usage. RTM’s healthcare expertise is valuable in addressing this challenge; our engineering team is skilled at streamlining operations to deliver energy and cost saving, while prioritizing patient care.
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