Given the nature of today’s healthcare industry, there’s a greater prevalence of renovation and expansion projects than new construction. As a result, project teams are often upgrading active facilities with patients on-site.

Working around sensitive populations, construction teams must be able to read, analyze, and react to shifting elements in the air so that hospital staff and patients can continue to give and receive care in a safe and controlled environment.

While industry standards on environmental monitoring vary depending on the state and the patient population, most construction teams take differential pressure readings multiple times a day and record them in a log book for historical data. The readings monitor a construction area’s negative pressure relative to its adjacent areas in an occupied facility, helping teams confirm dust does not leave the construction site.  An industrial hygienist also typically conducts weekly air particulate checks to confirm the size and quantity of air particles remain safe and normal throughout a project.

On a recent project for Tampa General Hospital (TGH; Tampa, Fla.), Skanska USA (New York) was tapped to build a new NICU around the hospital’s existing unit. While traditional monitoring protocols were in place, the team decided to be even more proactive, considering the sensitive patient population.

The solution was the creation of a mobile app named inSite Monitor. The construction team can track the newborns’ environment in real time from mobile devices, with the technology providing both a graphical and tabular view for data that shows sensor trends over time.

The project team set levels of tolerance for pressure, noise levels, and air particulates before the TGH project began. If values moved outside the normal range, the team would receive automatic text and email alerts. For example, loud noises have the potential to affect babies’ development, so sound monitoring devices were installed throughout the NICU project to allow the team to react in real-time to rising noise levels.

Another benefit of the app was a reduction in work interruptions. Traditionally, hospital staff and hospital nurse managers call construction teams if they notice something unusual. Using the app, the construction team could instead proactively identify and resolve issues, and share resolutions with hospital staff during regular meetings.

The technology is now used on a number of Skanska’s healthcare projects across the U.S.

As the healthcare industry turns to technology to deliver prime care and find cures, it’s only natural that the construction industry also looks for new ideas and innovations to upgrade facilities in the safest manner possible. It’s worth investing in intellectual capital to come up with the creative ideas that will add groundbreaking benefits to projects.

Brian Yarborough is senior project manager at Skanska USA.