In 2008, two industry leaders presented a state-of-the-art modular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) facility concept to the marketplace (featured in the April 2008 issue of Healthcare Design). Today that vision is being realized with the installation of several modular diagnostic imaging suites at large hospitals and small medical practices across the country.

Williams Scotsman, Inc., recently completed the installation of two modular imaging facilities using pre-engineered designs. One project involved a partnership between Williams Scotsman and Toshiba to develop a modular MRI suite for Pioneers Memorial Hospital in California. This project recently received an award of distinction by the Modular Building Institute (MBI), the non-profit trade association serving commercial modular construction, in the temporary modular healthcare category. The company also worked with Siemens to create a modular MRI suite for Kittitas Valley Community Hospital in Washington (see “Case Studies,” p. 58).

During the course of these projects, Williams Scotsman developed modular construction blueprints that lay out valuable turnkey guidelines for both original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and healthcare providers alike. The modular building provider-OEM relationship offers an integrated solution for healthcare facility managers, yielding an imaging suite that comes fully equipped with the latest technology (including the magnet) as well as patient areas and technician workspace. The modular units or modules offer an accelerated construction timeline over traditional construction and afford unprecedented flexibility.

Bill Rostenberg, FAIA, FACHA, principal and director of research with Anshen + Allen Architects in San Francisco, addresses the need for cost-effective solutions in this field in his new book, The Architecture of Medical Imaging: Designing Healthcare Facilities for Advanced Radiological Diagnostic and Therapeutic Techniques.

According to Rostenberg, “Designing and building a medical imaging facility was never easy, but now it is even more difficult. Addressing economic, technological, and patient mandates is not enough; today, the architecture of medical imaging facilities must satisfy these needs with a solution that is both innovative and affordable.”

The concurrent construction methodology based on modular components built in a factory-controlled environment, coupled with “plug-and-play” imaging technology, meets these new challenges. While MRI suites are the most popular imaging solution provided to hospitals, modular is also a viable option for other imaging modalities, including positron emission tomography-computed tomography (better known as PET-CT), computerized tomography (CT), cardiac catheterization and women's services wings that include mammography and ultrasound machines.

Case Studies

The following are examples of healthcare imaging projects that utilize modular construction:

  • Pioneers Memorial Hospital, Brawley, California. In considering whether to build a permanent addition to their radiology department or enable a longer range master plan of new hospital construction, administrators found that a modular imaging enclosure offered the best of both worlds. The project consists of two modules, each measuring 14′ x 35′. The 28′ x 35′ finished space amounts to 490 square feet and includes a procedure room, control room, waiting area, dressing rooms, and an equipment room. The modules were crane-set onto a concrete perimeter foundation in an area between two existing campus buildings. The exterior is stucco with recessed lateral and horizontal striping, meant to echo the existing structure's architectural panels. In addition, a customized steel canopy was constructed to connect the new modules to the main hospital building. The canopy was built to mirror the outline of an adjacent building. The effect is a seamless configuration of new space between older existing structures. The interior walls were painted with a textured brush finish that is contrasted by a blue, brown, and white checkerboard vinyl tile floor. The checkerboard lends a sense of geometry to the open waiting area. The building is completely relocatable and could potentially be moved without de-installing the magnet. This would save thousands of dollars in lost revenue and increased expenses, and would conserve the cryogen inside of the magnet itself. If the customer moves ahead with an expansion to the radiology department, the modular buildings' adaptability would enable placement anywhere on the campus.

  • Kittitas Valley Community Hospital, Ellensburg, Washington. This hospital's new MRI suite is conveniently located on campus and replaces the mobile MRI that was previously parked outside the imaging services area. The new modular structure cost $1.2 million and includes a new Siemens 1.5T MRI scanner. The project includes two modules, totaling 1,400 square feet. The integrated structure (modular building and imaging magnet) is leased through Alliance Imaging, a provider of advanced outpatient diagnostic imaging services in the United States Alliance partners directly with hospitals and other healthcare providers, to provide a turnkey solution that includes market analysis, management and staffing, state-of-the-art equipment, and marketing. The new permanent structure offers a cost-effective solution for the hospital and positions the hospital to more effectively serve the community with an upgraded MRI system that produces higher quality images.

Williams Scotsman has developed blueprints for the most common imaging suite configurations: 14 ′ 50 and 28 ′ 50. Healthcare facility managers can purchase or lease a basic single unit or choose a blueprint that configures modules together in various layouts to fit specific applications and site conditions. Williams Scotsman's “sequencing for growth” approach provides for future adaptability. That is to say, flexible layout options leave room for additional diagnostic imaging modalities that may be part of a healthcare operation's long-term expansion plans.

Standard building specifications are included in the designs, but can be altered to fulfill individual customer requests regarding interior and exterior finishes. The pre-engineered blueprints are updated on a regular basis to reflect changing needs and technological advancements in the imaging field.

“Our customers have told us that speed to occupancy is often a primary concern when looking to expand operations,” says Robert Giegerich, director of Toshiba's MR Business Unit. “Together with Williams Scotsman, we are able to offer customers a comprehensive option that seamlessly integrates our imaging technology with a permanent, aesthetically appealing building that can be built in record time.”

Modular building guidelines for imaging facilities

Within the American Institute of Architects (AIA) guidelines for the design and construction of hospitals and healthcare facilities, there are special considerations for MRI suites and other imaging modalities. Each OEM's specific spatial and technical requirements for the MRI unit must also be taken into account. The pre-engineered designs created by Williams Scotsman meet the AIA guidelines and include a patient waiting and changing area, control room, scan room, and equipment room. Other considerations include shielding requirements specific to each manufacturer of MRI and other imaging technology.

Benefits of modular vs. mobile imaging units

Healthcare facilities that rely solely upon mobile imaging units to service patients will have to rethink their approach as demand for imaging services continues to increase. Unlike a mobile unit, modular suites can be adjoined to an existing hospital or exist as a stand-alone facility. Modular units provide continuity on medical campuses as buildings can be constructed to match existing structures. The patient experience is also dramatically improved, as patients are not required to walk through a crammed space, with limited waiting areas and patient rooms. Moreover, mobile units are typically shared among several healthcare centers, therefore providing limited service to one hospital. Permanent modular suites offer scheduling flexibility for patients and provide facility managers with a cost-effective alternative to mobile units.

Another important point of differentiation is that modular buildings are inherently sustainable because the concurrent construction process used to build them minimizes construction waste and maximizes quality control. Modular structures also support attainment of LEED certification, which is becoming ever more desirable for healthcare organizations and even a requirement for building permits in certain jurisdictions. LEED credits may be leveraged by registering a project's checklist and developing pre-certification estimates.

Budgetary considerations and financing options

Modular building is an attractive option for healthcare facility managers who are looking to expand operations but are hesitant to embark on a major capital project during an economic downturn. Modular buildings yield a faster time to occupancy and offer significant financial benefits over the life of the building, as well as unprecedented flexibility. The bundled imaging suite that combines imaging technology with a modular building can be fiscally attractive to decision makers. Many OEMs provide competitive financing options for this offering. Because the modular building is combined with the imaging technology, hospitals can apply to lease the structure over a designated amount of time rather than commit to the purchase of a permanent or temporary building, thus supporting a favorable return on investment. HD

Devin Reffitt is the director of healthcare business development for the Baltimore-based Williams Scotsman, Inc., ( He may be reached via e-mail at Healthcare Design 2010 March;10(3):56-58