Hospital construction increases 10.7 percent in 2003

Construction spending at hospitals rose to almost $14 billion last year, an increase of 10.7 percent from 2002.

According to many hospital officials, medical construction isn’t likely to slow down any time soon due to the aging population of baby boomers. In addition to a growing group of senior citizens, new medical technology and general population growth in the suburbs has affected the construction and rehabilitation of facilities. Nationwide, hospital expansion projects are starting up, emergency rooms are expanding, cancer centers are being built, and more patient rooms are being added.

Older facilities faced a reduction in space in the 1980s when the number of patients decreased and more outpatient procedures became common. Since the 1990s there has been an increase of inpatient care, with approximately a 30 percent increase in hospital admissions in the past decade.

New hospitals likely won’t be anything like their predecessors.

Some of the most common changes include single patient rooms, replacing the standard semi-private room, larger access doors and higher ceilings. Instead of patients being wheeled from one floor to another, hospitals are designing their facilities where a patient can stay in one room for everything except surgery, and have medical machines or equipment brought to them.

At St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston, a $200 million expansion project will include technology in the cafeteria and laundry area, where robotic equipment will pick up food carts and dirty sheets and towels. Approximately 300 miles of fiber-optic cable will also be installed during the building’s construction so that each room will be interlinked to an online system, to aid diagnosis and care.

The Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas is also unique in its design. Currently being built on the site of the shutdown Robert Muller Municipal Airport, contractors plan to recycle the asphalt from the old runways for hospital parking and will build a reflecting pool that will double as a rainwater collection basin.