Magazine article Health Facilities Management

Wall Systems Built to Move: Prefabricated Solutions Help to Improve Flexibility, Infection Prevention and Patient Privacy

Magazine article Health Facilities Management

Wall Systems Built to Move: Prefabricated Solutions Help to Improve Flexibility, Infection Prevention and Patient Privacy

Article excerpt

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Modular, demountable walls can provide significant first-cost and long-term benefits to health facilities. These interior wall systems are manufactured off-site for quick assembly at a facility. They are also designed for quick disassembly, so they can be rebuilt in another space or reconfigured at the current location as a health care organization's needs change.

Compared with traditional construction, off-site manufacturing is cleaner, safer, faster and greener. Building walls in a factory or warehouse environment results in substantially less noise, dust and disruption for patients and staff at a medical facility.

The controlled setting is less hazardous and more efficient for tradespeople. Efficiencies in the construction process produce less material waste and allow newly built or renovated health care spaces to begin serving patients faster. And since modular walls are classified as furniture or personal property for tax purposes, they can be depreciated over five to seven years, versus nearly 40 years for traditional construction. With a variety of materials, finishes and features available, wall systems support well-designed health care interiors beautifully.

Walls that work

KI, Green Bay, Wis., offers a suite of architectural wall systems--Genius, Lightline and Evoke--that can be used in concert with one another or with conventional walls.

Genius is manufactured in a multitude of finishes, including solid panels, glass, veneers, laminates and acrylics. Fabric and vinyl constructions also are available. Framing options range from anodized aluminum to solid wood. Genius's furniture slotting allows installers to suspend modular casework from the wall system's panels, rather than cutting into a facility's permanent walls to hang furnishings.

Lightline is a glass wall product. It has virtually seamless connections to maximize visibility and the flow of natural light through a facility.

Both Genius and Lightline can be customized with hinged or sliding doors. Ryan Usiak, senior product marketing manager, architectural wall, KI, says that depending on the width of the doorway, "we can save as much as 10 square feet within a patient room, just by using a sliding door." Debbie Breunig, EDAC, the company's vice president for health care, notes that safety is another benefit of easy-to-operate sliding doors. "One of your highest risks for falls is the patient transfer from the bed to the bathroom," she says. Patients and staff who don't have to stop, pull open and maneuver around a swinging door have less risk of tripping or becoming entangled with an IV pole or other medical equipment.

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KI's newest architecture wall system, Evoke, has the look of traditional drywall. The solid panels can be wrapped in a screen print during manufacturing or painted in the field. The product offers high audio privacy, with a Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating of 50. "Evoke is a game changer in the health care environment, because of the high STC," Usiak says.

DIRTT Environmental Solutions, Calgary, Alberta, uses a process of manufactured construction to custom design and build prefabricated interior solutions to clients' exact requirements, down to the millimeter. The company's in-house software tool, ICE, handles much of the production work of schematic design, freeing interior design professionals to use their expertise to focus on the actual design.

Kristin Moore, director of health care, DIRTT, explains that with traditional construction, 70 percent of a budget goes toward labor and 30 percent toward materials. Efficiencies in DIRTT's manufacturing process flip that ratio, so customers can invest 70 percent of their budget in quality materials. "This means there's a lot more design freedom in what those interiors are going to look like and a higher level of overall performance in the longer term," Moore says. …

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