13 Must Haves for Medical Building Construction

13 Must Haves for Medical Building Construction

The thoughtful design and construction of a modern medical building aims to create functional hospitals or other health facilities that can quickly adapt to the changing health needs of the community. Medical building design should also ensure safety, protect the environment, and provide a calming environment, promoting the patient's and staff's well-being. Communities need medical building construction that lowers building and long-term costs — all features that Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms (ICFs) can provide.

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Historically, gains in our scientific knowledge, advancements in technology, and catastrophic events, have driven the evolution of best practices or must-haves in medical building design and construction.

  • Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the need for flexible and adaptable medical building design with improved ventilation systems to limit the spread of air-born disease.

  • Today’s medical buildings must include resilient design to protect against the increasing occurrence of severe natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, wildfires).

  • Modern “green” medical buildings reflect our growing awareness of how sustainable design helps to save money, protect the environment, and promote the welfare of current and future generations.

  • In addition, medical building construction should promote excellent indoor environmental quality (IEQ), ensuring all its occupants' comfort, safety, and productivity.

13 Medical Building Construction Must-Haves

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1. Functional, Flexible, and Modular Construction

Flexible and expandable medical design allows a building to adapt as the community’s medical needs change. For example, adjustable design allows a hospital to quickly pivot to handle a pandemic response, segregating physical spaces and mechanical systems. In addition, flexible and adaptable design helps minimize the spread of pathogens, allowing the staff to treat severely ill and non-pandemic patients simultaneously.

Adaptability allows a medical facility to make the most of its available space, limiting the need for patient transport. It also helps patients feel more comfortable.

Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms (ICFs) allow for quick and easy expansion as medical buildings need to grow. Fox Blocks combine five-building parts into one: insulation, structure, attachment, air barrier, and vapor retarder. The all-in-one wall system eliminates the coordination of multiple trades, significantly hastening delivery time while achieving the building goals.

2. Cost-Effective and Efficient Design

A medical building floor plan should promote staff efficiency, minimizing the distance between frequently used areas. For example, circling the patient’s rooms around the nurse’s station shortens the distance between the two, unlike the long hallways of the past.

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3. Fire-Resistant Construction

Fire-resistant medical building construction strives to lessen the spread of fire and smoke during a fire emergency. Tragically, fires occur in about 5,750 healthcare facilities annually, costing about $50.4 billion in direct property damage. The rise in wildfires and longer wildfire seasons make fire resistance a vital component of medical building construction.

Structural fire protection defends the vital areas of the building. For example, Fox Blocks buildings and an application of fireproofing material around the structural steel and joint systems can provide fire protection to a building. Fox Blocks’ achieves a fire-resistance rating (ASTM E119) of 4-hours for the 6-inch blocks.

For further fire protections, apply fire-stopping materials (fire-resistant glazings and doors, cement mortar, fire shutters, etc.) to the openings for joists, beams, pipes, ducts, etc. that pass through fire-separating elements.

4. Earthquake-Resistant Construction

Earthquakes can cause significant structural damage to medical buildings, putting people’s lives in jeopardy. Therefore, constructing a medical facility in regions prone to seismic activity requires rigorous design and construction standards. Over the past 50 years, more deaths have occurred due to earthquakes than any other natural disaster.

Medical buildings constructed with reinforced concrete walls, like Fox Blocks ICFs, can survive earthquakes intact, structurally sound, and mostly untouched. In fact, Construction Technology Laboratories (CTL) found over six times the racking load resistance of lightly reinforced concrete shear walls than wood-framed walls.

Earthquake-resistant Fox Blocks create shear walls, extending the height and all sides of the structures. Steel reinforcing bars anchor the ICF walls to the foundation. During an earthquake, this design effectively resists intense lateral (sideways) in-plane forces that push the top of the wall one way. Simultaneously, the bottom stays stationary or moves in the other direction (racking the wall).

5. Hurricane- and Tornado-Resistance

Hurricane- and tornado-resistant medical building design protects a structure and its occupants from high winds, vital to withstanding increasing severe wind events due to warming temperatures. A hospital needs to stay intact and function to accommodate the surge of acute and emergency care that follows disasters.

Medical facilities constructed with Fox Blocks ICFs provide the best protection against severe winds and flying debris during a tornado, hurricane, or severe storm. Fox Blocks structures maintain their integrity during winds of over 200 mph, and can resist projectile debris flying over 100 mph. Concrete walls offer more structural resistance against severe winds than either wood- or steel-framed walls.

6. Flood-Resistance

Flood-resistant design for medical facilities located in a flood hazard area must be according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Flood Resistant Design and Construction, ASCE 24-14, protecting against tides, storm surge, and excessive rain. Vital flood-resistant design features include:

  • Elevated structures

  • Materials that can get wet

  • Design systems that quickly dry when exposed to water

In response to Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Veterans Affairs implemented the upside-down design of medical buildings. In other words, services previously housed on the ground floor, such as the kitchen and access points for utilities are now on the fourth level of the building. Additionally, locate all mission-critical services (emergency rooms) at least 20 feet above base flood elevation.

Fox Blocks solid continuous monolithic concrete walls provide moisture resistance and permeability (perm rating below 1.0), features that ensure that moisture within the wall system will evaporate and not move on to nearby materials. Fox Blocks reinforced concrete construction won't degrade when wet, and will maintain its original shape and integrity during and after a flood.

Builders, architects, and communities increasingly recognize that sustainable construction practices save money and protect the environment by ensuring a tight building envelope and utilizing renewable energy sources and recycled building materials

7. Renewable Energy Sources

Sustainable medical buildings should install renewable energy sources like solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. Renewable energy sources help a medical facility achieve net-zero energy status, meaning the structure makes as much energy as it uses, tremendously lessening, if not eliminating, a building’s energy bills.

8. A Solid Building Envelope

A tight building envelope significantly increases a medical building’s energy efficiency. Three essential features for ensuring a tight building envelope include:

  • Continuous insulation (CI)

  • An adequate air and moisture barrier

  • High thermal mass materials

Continuous insulation stops thermal bridging and increases the effective insulating performance of a wall. A quality air and moisture barrier will reduce the amount of air leakage in a building, which lessens the load on HVAC equipment and the likelihood of condensation and moisture problems in the walls of the building. High thermal mass materials absorb and store heat energy and help stabilize temperature shifts within the medical facility by slowing the heat transfer rate. During lengthy power outages, the thermal mass and air tightness will effectively minimize the temperature change within the building for an extended period, maintaining indoor comfort for an extended duration.

Energy-efficient, high thermal mass Fox Blocks ICF achieve an R-value of 23, providing CI for an airtight medical building. High thermal mass stabilizes temperature shifts within a structure by slowing the rate of heat transfer. CI eliminates air leakage (thermal bridging), saving energy and money.

9. Recycled Building Materials

Sustainable building methods consider resource conservation methods like purchasing products near the job site and using recycled and durable building materials.

Airlite Plastics (the parent company of Fox Blocks) practices ZERO plastic landfill contributions. In addition, Fox Blocks contain a minimum of 40 percent recycled content by weight.

10. Non-Toxic Materials

Medical building construction should avoid using materials with high volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. VOCs can cause nose, eye, and throat irritations, headaches, nausea, and damage to the kidney, liver, and central nervous system.

Fox Blocks contain little to no VOCs.

11. Proper Moisture Levels

Maintaining a healthy indoor environment requires controlling moisture levels, both inside and outside of the building. Inadequate moisture control can lead to adverse health effects and structural damage. Managing moisture in a medical facility requires an airtight exterior building envelope that resists harsh weather and water accumulation within the wall system.

In addition, a medical building needs proper ventilation and clean air circulation. Well-planned ventilation can help contain the spread of infection, like COVID-19, by quickly isolating surge areas to protect cross-contaminating the rest of the building.

Fox Blocks create a solid continuous monolithic concrete wall with a perm rating of less than 1.0, which controls moisture intrusion and prohibits the growth of unhealthy and structural damaging mold, mildew, and rot.

12. Good Acoustics and Sound Control

Medical buildings must promote patient dignity and privacy by ensuring that exam rooms and patients’ rooms are soundproof. In addition, the exterior walls should have a high Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating to limit outside noise from cars, construction, etc., from disrupting the quiet inside of the medical facility.

Fox Blocks ICF controls noise between rooms and from the outside. Sound transmission tests found that less than a third of sound passes through ICF walls than wood-frame walls filled with fiberglass insulation. Fox Blocks achieve a Sound Transmission Classification (ASTM E90) of 4-inch=STC 46, 6- and 8-inch = STC 50+.

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13. Easy Cleaning and Sanitation

The design of a medical building should consider ease of housekeeping. For example, the detailing of door frames, casework, and finish transitions should limit dirt accumulation in hard-to-clean crevices and joints. Install durable and antimicrobial surfaces to maintain a sterile environment.

Fox Blocks: A Must-Have for Medical Building Construction

Fox Blocks ICF provides many must-haves for medical building constructions: flexible, adaptable, and quick construction of resilient and sustainable buildings with excellent IEQ. Fox Blocks has the most scientifically up-to-date safety, health, and environmental practices for constructing a medical facility that will provide the best protection against future unforeseen health crises.

Contact the Fox Blocks professionals today for more info on medical building construction.