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Prefabricated Modular Exam Rooms

By Joe Arman, Walsh Construction Company
The Walsh Group is a CHEF Platinum Sponsor

With technology advancing, it opens a multitude of different opportunities and possibilities in the world of construction. For the first time, Northwestern Medicine, Walsh Construction and CannonDesign teamed up to put a new practice to use: prefabricated modular exam rooms. Prefabricated (Prefab) modular exam rooms are preconstructed pods that are finished prior to installation. The final pods will have everything installed except for a few ceiling tiles, and flooring.

Why should we care about prefab? Well, Prefabricated rooms/pods can be extremely beneficial for many reasons. The list includes not having to deal with weather climate-controlled working conditions, possible cost-saving, as well as being in a safe and controlled environment with little to no outside distraction for workers.

The Bloomingdale Medical Office Building (MOB) is a fantastic example of the possible benefits of prefabricated modular rooms. For starters, the project is a 50,000 square foot renovation that will need a total of 70 prefabbed modular exam rooms. During the construction, one third of the immediate care building was still in operation and would move into the complete Phase 1A area of the 231 S Gary building, in order for construction to continue on the rest of the buildings. The project will be completed in two phases with the first part completing this past March 2021 and phase 2 scheduled to finish out in October.

The phases were separated into two parts as the renovation of the immediate care center would be carried out first. After the completion of phase 1, the medical building, which is still in use, moved to the other half so that construction could start on phase 2 of the project. Phase 2 of the project is currently underway and is in the process of moving the final pods into place.

Using BIM, (Building Information Modeling), our managers, and engineers mapped out the placements of every single pod, lightbulb, etc., so that come delivery day there were not any complications. The 3D MEP coordination between all teams is vital for the project to be finished on time and on budget.

The actual creation of the room was a process that started long before construction was done to any rooms or the building itself. The process started at Hill Mechanical’s warehouse in Franklin Park, IL. At Hill’s warehouse, different minds from Walsh, Hill, Northwestern Medicine, and doctors analyzed a prototype of how big the room is, where everything would go, etc. The team gathered intel and reconvened for a final product.

After the final design was established and approved on all fronts, workers from Hill Mechanical started the process of making 70 total prefabricated exam rooms. The methodical process of getting all 70 rooms created is rather impressive — Hill employees worked in an assembly-line fashion constructing each room one by one, building 35 rooms at a time. After the first few rooms, the workers were able to iron out all the initial hiccups in the process, which, ultimately kept them on time.

Another major advantage of prefabrication, as mentioned earlier, is the fact that weather does not play a part during construction. As we all know, rain and other unwanted conditions can push back projects and end up in all sides losing money. For example, if a rainstorm were to come through, construction work would be postponed and cause possible scheduling nightmares and pose threats to budgets. But with prefabricated rooms, weather is largely taken out of question because the pods are created in a climate-controlled warehouse.

Financially, prefabrication can cut costs for everyone involved in a project. For starters, the delivery of basic materials to the site of the project is now gone, saving both time and money. Secondly, prefabrication is faster, easier, and requires less labor than if the job were to be built onsite.  The kind of labor utilized in a warehouse is a different classification than required on a project site.

When it comes to the electricity and plumbing of the prefabricated rooms, all the basic work is completed prior to delivery to the site/project. With that being said, when the pods are delivered there are plumbers and electricians waiting at the site for the pod to be moved into position. Once in position, the electricians and plumbers make the final connections with their lines and pipes. The local building inspector is also onsite to witness the connections.  The flooring and field ceiling tiles are installed upon delivery to remove the chance of breaking issues during transport.

When it comes to delivery day/installation, the prefabbed pods are moved from the warehouse where they are created directly to the site, by way of large trucks. Each truck can carry up to three pods to the project site where they are met with workers waiting to take them off the truck.

To get the pods off of the delivery trucks, workers connect ropes to the corners of the module and then attach it to a skyjack that lifts the pod up and moves it off the truck. After all pods are off the truck, the skyjack picks it up again and moves it to the large front door fitted to send the pods through. Workers place dollies underneath the pod, which weigh approximately 2,700 pounds, and rolls them each into place.

A large part of the planning that is taken place prior to delivery all revolves around the pod locations and logistics. This is a critical piece of the planning and scheduling based on the fact that there will be different trades as well as construction workers on the jobsite at the same time. It was vital to install some pieces before or after another so that the tradesmen, electricians, and plumbers, would be able to make their final connections.

Once they are set in their designated spots, as marked on the side, a crew secures the pod to the floor of the building. Only after the room is secured into its spot do the electricians and plumbers start to make their final connections. A large part of most construction jobs is setting up when and where each trade can be at a single time, but with prefabrication, a lot of that stress is gone due to the fact that a majority of their work is done even before the rooms are installed.

The final part of the installation process occurs after all the electricity and plumbing works, which is installing the exterior perimeter drywall as well as the pod door.

With phase 1 of the construction over and phase 1B & 2 well underway, the final pod delivery at Northwestern Medicine Bloomingdale took place on Friday June 4, 2021. With the final pods delivered and placed, the bulk of the work ahead on the job is finishing the interior as well as the exterior. The exterior will be finished with a nice façade, metal paneling, stained bricks, and new stone.

All in all, prefabrication is an innovative and cost-friendly new way of building. When it comes to saving money, each individual pod is constructed faster and safer rather than building on-site like normal. Additionally, the safety of the workers is monitored more closely and cuts down on injuries. Finally, the actual installation and delivery is a relatively straightforward process that is mapped out and prepared for months ahead of the day of arrival.

For questions please contact: 

Mary Ann Lukowicz
Project Executive – Healthcare
The Walsh Group
929 West Adams Street
Chicago, Illinois 60607
o 312-492-0715
c  847-417-5865

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