health care construction trends

When it comes to the construction industry, there are different sectors under this large umbrella of “construction”. Each of the different sectors encompass types of buildings that have different purposes, such as retail spaces/commercial buildings or residential buildings. Another of these, which we will be delving into in depth for this article, is health care construction. Each kind of construction does have different objectives and design details, in addition to having different purposes.

Read on to learn more about what health care construction is, as well as some of the health care construction trends that we have seen emerging in recent years and gaining traction for 2024, too!


What Is Health Care Construction?

Health care construction is a specialized niche of the construction industry, and generally pertains to the construction of health care facilities such as hospitals, clinics, medical office buildings or out patient care facilities. Health care construction not only deals with interior and exterior building, but with ground up projects, too. There are plenty of concerns when working in health care construction. Besides the purpose and the function of the institution being built, there is also close attention being paid to the health and safety of the staff and patients of the health care facility. This is also a sector of construction that is very technology driven. 

Hospital Vs Clinic 

Within health care construction, there are two separate sectors. These two sectors, or two types of buildings, are hospitals and clinics. These are our main areas of construction. Hospitals are classified as I Occupancy, meaning that they are classified as an institution. Construction companies must follow a specific set of standards when building I Occupancy buildings. Clinics, on the other hand, are classified as being B Occupancy. B Occupancy buildings are classified as being businesses, rather than institutions. In health care construction, hospital construction is the more expensive out of these two kinds of construction. 

There are a few factors that contribute to this. For one, there is a higher level of scrutiny on the work for hospitals and this requires more funds directed towards different health and safety measures. Hospitals are also built with more infrastructure than clinics. They are usually built out of denser and stouter materials like steel or concrete. Hospitals also require more advanced electrical and mechanical equipment to function and provide patient care. All in all, the stakes are higher when it comes to hospital construction than clinic construction.

Health Care Construction Trends 2023 - Seko Construction
Health Care Construction Trends 2023 - Seko Construction (1)

Health Care Construction Terminology 

The health care construction industry is somewhat unique in that it has some special terminology that is not shared across all disciplines of construction. Below, we will go over a few of the most common terms that we see in health care construction so that you can better understand this industry.

ICRA – Infection Control Risk Assessment

First, the acronym ICRA stands for Infection Control Risk Assessment. It is used to assess the level of risk that is in a hospital or clinic, or other health care space. This assessment takes a number of things into account when assessing the level of risk. The factors that are considered include the level of care at the location, the number of patients, and the requirements of the construction project, whatever that project may be. ICRA is used to reduce risk of infection during projects in health care buildings or spaces, to keep workers safe. It helps maintain the wellbeing of everyone at the facility.

MOB – Medical Office Building

Next up is the acronym MOB. In the case of health care construction, this acronym stands for the phrase Medical Office Building. What does this mean or refer to, exactly? MOB is used to refer to any sort of medical office building that may end up being part of the construction project. An example of an MOB in this case is an office facility for medical practitioners and healthcare providers. Diving deeper into this, they could be locations such as out patient facilities, clinics, or primary care practitioners. This is not quite as specific of a term as ICRA or ILSM, the latter of which we will be going over next! 

ILSM – Interim Life Safety Measures

ILSM is the last term in health care construction that we will be going over here. ILSM stands for Interim Life Safety Measures. So what does this mean, exactly? This refers to different health and safety measures in health care construction such as fire codes. It also refers to standards that should be met to ensure the safety of those in a hospital or MOB. They can be put in place in a few different situations. One such situation is when a system needs to be put out of service in an interior construction project. Another example is when there is a changed path through a ward. 

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Every industry has its trends, and the construction industry is no different. In fact, the trends seen in the healthcare construction industry can differ from the trends of other construction industries such as retail construction.

Read on for some of the big trends that we are seeing these days for health care construction and in today’s healthcare environment expected to continue to see in 2024 and possibly beyond! 

1. More Flexible Spaces

Flexibility of spaces is very important in all types of construction these days, including in hospitals or other health care spaces, like doctor’s offices. This can help facilities to mobilize and adapt in order to meet short term needs. An example of a short term need can be an influx of patients due to a pandemic or a natural disaster. Flexible spaces are also important due to the rate at which emerging technologies are advancing. There are many ways to create a health care space that is a flexible space. One of these is the acuity adaptable patient room. An acuity adaptable patient room is a hospital room that can come to the patient, rather than the patient being moved to where care is. They can help solve the issue of overcrowding in hospital spaces. Convertible and flexible hospital rooms are now becoming the standard across the health care industry, too, without compromising quality. 

2. Focus on Sustainability Efforts

Next up is the focus on and heightened commitment to sustainability, which we see not only in the health care industry, but in other areas of construction as well. In the US, the White House actually called upon the health care sector to work on addressing climate change. This is largely because hospitals use up a lot of energy, just in their everyday functions. They are energy intensive by nature. For instance, they have robust mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems, and the equipment needed in a hospital uses a lot of energy, too. There are many ways that renewable energy sources and sustainability are being addressed, including optimizing indoor air quality and reducing potable water use. Passive design elements that reduce energy demands, and sourcing sustainable materials that are regional or local can help with this objective, too. Construction companies who are trying to cut down on the impact of their health care construction projects will also try to minimize construction waste. 

Sustainable design practices and eco-friendly features are increasingly being integrated into healthcare design to minimize environmental impact while enhancing patient care and staff well-being. Some of the key trends and innovative solutions include:

  1. Energy Efficiency: Implementing energy-efficient systems like LED lighting, high-efficiency HVAC systems, and smart building technologies to reduce energy consumption. Solar panels and other renewable energy sources are also being used to power facilities sustainably.
  2. Water Conservation: Using low-flow fixtures and water-efficient landscaping to reduce water usage. Rainwater harvesting systems are also being implemented for non-potable uses like landscaping and flushing toilets.
  3. Green Building Materials: Selecting materials with lower environmental impacts, such as recycled, renewable, or sustainably sourced materials. This also includes using low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints and finishes to improve indoor air quality.
  4. Sustainable Site Development: Designing the site to preserve natural landscapes and biodiversity. This includes protecting existing ecosystems, using native plants for landscaping, and implementing green roofs or living walls.
  5. Waste Reduction Strategies: Incorporating systems for efficient waste management, including recycling programs, composting organic waste, and reducing single-use plastics and materials in the facility.
  6. Natural Light and Ventilation: Maximizing the use of natural light and ventilation to reduce reliance on artificial lighting and air conditioning, which not only saves energy but also creates a more pleasant and healing environment for patients and staff.
  7. Thermal Comfort and Indoor Air Quality: Ensuring optimal indoor air quality and thermal comfort through advanced HVAC systems that filter air efficiently and maintain consistent temperatures, which is crucial in healthcare settings.
  8. Green Certification Programs: Adhering to green building certification systems like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) to ensure comprehensive sustainable practices in design, construction, and operation.
  9. Integrated Design Process: Engaging in an integrated design process where architects, engineers, medical staff, and sustainability experts collaborate from the project’s inception to ensure that sustainability is a core component of the design.
  10. Community and Patient Engagement: Designing spaces that promote community engagement and patient well-being, such as therapeutic gardens, community education centers, and spaces for physical activities, which contribute to the overall health and sustainability of the community.

These sustainable practices not only reduce the environmental footprint of healthcare facilities but also improve the health and well-being of patients, staff, and the broader community. As awareness of environmental issues grows, these eco-friendly features are expected to become standard in healthcare facility design.

3. Emphasis on Wellness

It makes sense that an emphasis on wellness would be a focus and emerging trend in the health care industry— an industry that helps to care for us and our mental and physical health! Health care construction tries to achieve this by making clinics or hospitals as comfortable as possible, which can then help make a positive impact on the health and wellness of patients. This emphasis on wellness is achieved by focusing on natural light, access to fresh air, and the acoustics quality of a space when designing and building it. It is also important to reduce any sensory stressors within the health care space being built. Access to natural light has largely become a code requirement in patients’ rooms, but natural light should be visible throughout the hospital space, including hallways or waiting areas. If a health care space is a larger campus or hospital, then designers may also opt for areas that can prove to be a respite for employees and patients, such as courtyards or open air gardens. 

Health Care Construction Trends 2023- Seko Construction (6)
Health Care Construction Trends 2023- Seko Construction (2)
Health Care Construction Trends 2023- Seko Construction (5)

4. Private Waiting Areas

Private waiting areas are another trend that we see emerging in health care construction. They are popular for a couple of reasons. For one, of course, they are private and can give patients or families more time to themselves, especially in difficult situations. This can be less stressful for them.

Another benefit of this privacy is that those patients who have poor immune systems— especially those who have poor immune systems due to an illness or disease they are dealing with— are less likely to get sick and are not interacting with many other ill individuals. In this vein, private waiting areas also reduce the spread of illnesses by being a way to social distance, even if you are not already sick. This is something we learned a lot about during the pandemic in the past years, and it is part of the reason that private waiting areas emerged as a trend or design feature.

Health Care Construction Trends 2023- Seko Construction (1)

5. Micro Hospitals

A micro hospital is also a trend that we are seeing in the health care construction space. What is a micro hospital, though, you may wonder? These are small, typically outpost style, spaces that are used to provide health care even in more rural areas. During the pandemic, of course, we learned firsthand of the importance of access to adequate health care in all places. Of course, this was never an issue that was up for debate! When a micro hospital is built, this is usually done using pre fabricated materials or modular construction— the buildings are built offsite in controlled environments and transported to the site after they are completed.

Micro hospitals do not have a large number of beds, and these typically only number between 8 and 15. This is because patients are only meant to be admitted to micro hospitals for short amounts of time. That being said, this type of healthcare space can be incredibly useful in a pinch or in areas where the population is low. 

Health Care Construction Trends 2023 Micro Hospitals - Seko Construction (1)

6. Automation

Automation is another one of the trends that are all over the construction industry, the health care construction industry included! It is also seen in many other industries these days, as it is important for industries to adapt with the technological advantages we are seeing, or else they will become obsolete. So, how does the rise in automation help the health care construction industry? Some of these health care spaces use machines or robots that can automate certain tasks around the hospital or doctor’s office.

For instance, automation can be used to automate the frequent sanitation of door handles, faucets, and other surfaces. These surfaces are required to be cleaned often in health care spaces to reduce germs and the spread of disease. Of course, automation can also be used in the construction of the healthcare facilities themselves. Automation is often used in construction these days, especially when the construction method pre fab or modular building.

7. Smart Lighting

Last, but certainly not least, we have the trend of smart lighting. Smart lighting can be seen being used in many spaces, such as residential spaces. Of course, it is also used in health care spaces like hospitals and medical office buildings. When we think of hospitals— or when we used to, at least— we think of the harsh bright lights of the past. Luckily, health care spaces are getting rid of these clinical harsh lights. Instead, more construction companies are placing soft and indirect light, instead, because it increases the comfort of patients.

Smart lighting that is dimmable and has several light sources are now popular in these kinds of spaces as well. This may require a more in depth construction strategy when doing electrical work in such health care locations. UV lights that can maintain and monitor cleanliness in the hospital are on the rise, too. The UV light is able to kill the bacteria in the space and reduce the spread of illnesses. 

SEKO Construction has extensive experience in commercial construction. Our focus is on the design, permitting, and construction of commercial, industrial, dealership, aviation and recreational, which includes healthcare facilities and other commercial buildings in the healthcare sector.

If you are looking for a Design Build General Contractor to assist with the construction process in the healthcare industry, contact us today!

Seko Construction provides Western Canada with the following construction services:

  • Design-Build Stipulated Price Construction
  • Healthcare Facilities Construction Management Services
  • Heathcare Design and Construction
  • Commercial Renovations