As a new frugality motivates Americans to do more with less in this recession, healthcare leaders likewise have adopted a similar mindset.
Colleague Joe Madda, AIA, LEED AP, in HGA’s Los Angeles office, notes that the economic slowdown likely will bring some cost-relief to healthcare providers, in effect enabling them to “buy more hospital” or include more attractive finishes or sustainable details for less.
“In today’s economic climate, it takes courage to build a healthcare facility,” Madda says. “It also takes foresight to understand the balance between the capital costs of the present, and the life-cycle and operational costs of the future.
When making your design decisions, consider these three cost variables in a new or remodeled healthcare interior:
First Costs
With the economy driving down construction material costs as contractors compete for commissions, owners now have a unique buying opportunity.
Capitalize on the current economic downturn. For instance, carpet, wall-covering and furniture suppliers, as well as other vendors, may be willing to negotiate to secure the project—in effect, offering discounts that allow you to do more with less.

Life-cycle Costs
Also in line with the new cost consciousness, healthcare architecture firms are helping owners reuse more of the facility they already have. By thinking strategically about what can be reused, you’ll find opportunities to save money and resources when remodeling.
Look at refurbished systems furniture from major manufacturers or local companies that have liquidated. Also research the growing selection of new materials, recycled goods, and durable, low-maintenance products, such as flooring and wall finishes that bring long-term value.
Operational Costs
Staffing often comprises the largest share of the operating budget. That is why the built environment and interior layout play such a critical role in reducing operating costs. If staff satisfaction and productivity improve, the bottom line improves.

Study the work-day travel patterns of your healthcare staff (such as nurses and medical technicians) and look for ways to reduce work fatigue and improve patient interactions. From these studies, you can develop environments that streamline care-giving processes, which increase staff productivity and efficiency, reduce wastes, and lead to better patient care.