Dealing with Life Expectancy
Has the expected life of your facility suddenly become compressed? Buildings that were expected to function in their current state for 10-20 years now might be facing a revamp in as little as 3-5 years.
I had a very enlightening talk on this subject recently with Dawn Naney from the consulting firm Symphony LLC. Naney comes from a healthcare background, previously working in project management and delivery of capital projects for BJC HealthCare and now advises owners on such practices. Naturally, our conversation turned into one about the changing face of the healthcare industry. She brought up a great point that as healthcare models continue to evolve it will cause this ripple effect in which what we envision as a “hospital” today might be starkly different in a few short years.
In particular, we are talking about the anticipated shift from healthcare models being more clinically based to one that is focused on keeping patients out of such facilities thanks to remote-patient monitoring. This represents the idea of using technology to monitor loved ones using remote sensors and cellular-based communications platforms right in their very homes, sending data to caregivers and doctors remotely rather than requiring them to come into the care facility.
Think this idea is all pie-in-the-sky? Think again. Analyst firm Berg Insight estimates 2.8 million people used such systems in 2012, and anticipates that number to reach 9.4 million by 2017. Likewise, ABI Research says by 2018 5 million sensors designed to enable wireless patient monitoring will be on the market.
So what does this have to do with construction, you might ask? As Naney points out, when we begin to talk about this idea of making lifecycle decisions about a hospital, the conversation shifts from ‘what renovations will we need to make over the next 20 years’ to ‘how do I ensure the infrastructure can help transform my facility to adapt to the new model?’ For instance, smaller physician offices will be designed to provide more outpatient care because they could become primary care medical home centers. Or suddenly the operating costs of a large hospital become very inefficient due to the lack of usage in the way it was originally designed. The infrastructure needs to be in place to keep people out of the hospital and in their homes.
The topic comes at a critical juncture with capital being constrained, leaving owners to try and figure out how to do more with existing buildings. For those that are in the market to construct new facilities, the mentality, as always, needs to allow for more flexibility and growth going forward.
Could such an idea transform the delivery model in the construction industry altogether? It could be more important than ever to ensure the digital data being created during design and construction translates well into technology systems designed to help with operations and maintenance. And if you think this is a challenge that only the owners will need to deal with, I say it will have ripple effects across the construction team, reinventing the ways in which each member captures and manages data.
While the conversation is currently focused on healthcare, you can soon expect this to be in the line of thinking of every owner in every market you work with today. It’s another reason that whole idea of Big Data we have been discussing lately will be very relevant in construction for the foreseeable future. In a way, it will certainly be yet another thing to consider with regards to managing data for the lifecycle.
Interesting Times in Construction
With talk of the construction industry taking a slide, it seems like I keep hearing the famous Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” But the truth is, this is an industry that knows it’s all about patience. Okay, you need a broader foundation, and that includes things like collaboration, communication, and just about everything will be easier, faster, and certainly better. Couple all this together, and it sounds like we are talking about an industry that continues to invest in technology. Pepper in all this data that we are buzzing about and in my estimation the construction industry is getting ready to execute on the next round of technology tools.
We are now talking about sophisticated tools such as security systems, advanced tracking technology to enhance safety, and solutions that improve productivity at the jobsites. We are also talking about even more advanced usage of lifecycle-management modeling tools that allow construction projects to be acquired and shared in a central database. I agree we live interesting times, but technology is just making them better for the construction industry.