I’ve written a lot about retrofitting and remodeling existing facilities to maximize the space. Now I want to share with you some of the tips we give our clients about staying open while your facility is under construction.

Have a Plan

Before beginning your upgrade, sit down with the contractor and make sure there is a phasing plan in place to minimize construction disruption. Include your staff in the planning process: get input from each department about the phasing schedule.

During a retrofit or remodel, you’ll also need to understand costs and timetables. Projects like these usually take longer because the facility is staying open. For example, barriers will be erected to keep dust, noise and worker traffic at a minimum through patient areas. Depending on the scope of the project, think about patient and staff parking, wayfinding, HIPAA rules and regulations, privacy and the easiest ways to facilitate any needs to re-routing during the project.

To help control costs throughout the project, make sure things stay on track and on target. Realize that it will be uncomfortable for a while, but focus on the end of the project and what you’re going to achieve.

Off-Peak Work

Another way to speed up your project is to consider working off hours and weekends. The higher cost of off-peak work may be a good payoff in terms of shortening the timeframe and minimizing disruption in key areas. And, with the economy squeezing the construction industry right now, you may be able to find workers to work during off-hours for little or no increase in cost.

Communication is Key

The most important thing to remember if you decide to stay open during construction is to communicate with your patients and staff. This can be done through signage, wayfinding and messages for the key audiences your team comes in contact with. Apologize for the inconvenience; tell them what you’re doing, when you’re doing it and why. Focus on the positive things that will come from this upgrade. People tend to be much more understanding if they’re kept in the loop.