The failure of a building’s skin, or envelope, is responsible for most callbacks for rework on any construction project. But new innovations are enhancing quality and efficiency related to making facades smarter and more dynamic. 

For example, new innovations include:

  • Windows with embedded solar panels in them that actually produce energy
  • Windows that have a chamber between two glass panels where the sun heats the air, which is then captured and distributed through the building in the winter months
  • Exterior walls that can be vented in the summer so that heat is dissipated out the top of the building instead of being sucked in and having to be cooled
  • Louvered sunshades on facades that, as the sun rotates around the building, move to shade the openings 

Today, hospitals are beginning to bring in experts who know when and how to capitalize on advancements such as these as part of their construction teams. That’s what Salem Community Hospital in Salem, Ohio, has done in constructing its new bed tower, a $32 million, fast-tracked project with five components, or stages, including one just for the exterior envelope. The hospital has brought in a professional exterior consultant to advise on cost-effective ways to maximize efficiency and quality outcomes and to ensure sure that the detailing works as conceived by the architect, so that where different materials such as brick, metal, and glass come together, there is no leakage.

Hospitals are sometimes reluctant to pay top dollar to buy such professional expertise, especially now that the recession has left so many in the building trades hungry, but the ROI should be persuasive. The fact is, professional fees typically account for just a tiny portion of the overall life cycle cost of a building, including energy, upkeep, and the human resources required to run it. (See the exhibit below.)

It’s important for hospitals to focus on finding the right partners who can bring extra value to facilities that, after all, will have to serve the organization for decades to come. 

Andrew Quirk is senior vice president and national leader, healthcare center of excellence, Skanska USA Building, Nashville, Tenn. (

For more information, see Andrew Quirk's "Fast Tracking Hospital Construction", hfm, March 2013 

Publication Date: Friday, March 01, 2013

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