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Health projects are about more than just construction

In a tough economic climate, it is essential for all those on the project team to drive out unnecessary costs and, where possible, deliver more for less.

That goes double for a project in the healthcare sector, where we have an obligation to maximise the value from every pound of money spent and deliver projects that help bring the best treatment to patients.

That means you have to know about more than just construction. You have to understand the day-to-day pressures those in healthcare face. It sounds obvious, but in my experience it’s what makes the difference.

The key skill is listening. How do patients and their families feel about coming to hospital? How do doctors and nurses want to treat patients? How is the healthcare sector addressing issues such as dementia and an ageing demographic – not just today, but in 15 years’ time?

By listening, we are always learning and so have the opportunity to improve our service.

Case by case

Each healthcare project is unique – a different trust, different needs and a different set of people. Sometimes the construction team is the thing that brings it all together – we bridge the gap between form and function.

We listen to the needs, wants and desires of all the stakeholders involved and then translate that into a workable facility for both patients and clinicians and, importantly, within their budget expectations.

“Our ability to challenge the requirements and find new ways to deliver what’s needed has brought better results for everybody”

That last point is important. It’s not our role to water down people’s aspirations – whether it’s the architect or the staff nurse – but it is our responsibility to deliver the optimum solution at the right price.

I know that on our most successful healthcare projects, our ability to challenge the requirements and find new ways to deliver what’s needed has brought better results for everybody.

The more adaptable we can make each space, the more uses it can be put to. The treatment rooms we build are increasingly standardised to keep down costs and increase flexibility, with specialist equipment kept mobile and wheeled to where it’s needed, when it’s needed.

Finer points

The answers are often in the detail. Increased use of building information modelling means we make greater use of building data, helping us to better manage complex design and construction processes.

In turn, this drives innovation and cuts out waste from construction to operation and, finally, maintenance, where there are huge efficiency opportunities.

“Post-occupancy evaluations are extremely valuable, offering practical lessons but also credibility with the client”

Conversations with clinicians and patients early on help everyone to visualise and challenge developing designs before they are built.

Virtual reality and 3D design technologies translate the technical talk and keep the process easy and efficient for busy hospital staff members.

Post-occupancy evaluations are also extremely valuable, offering practical lessons learned but also credibility with the client when you can show not only tangible benefits, but also areas for improvement.

Working in healthcare is incredibly rewarding, for many reasons. Of course, at the back of my mind is also the thought that the quality of the product we deliver may just help to save a life. That’s a good enough reason for me.

Paul Chandler is executive vice-president of Skanska UK

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