Generating efficiencies with small healthcare projects

by Andrea Hardy, AIA, EDAC
Design Technology
North Shore Physicians Group | Primary Care Practice Rowley

We often ask ourselves: how do we know we are making a difference, and how do we develop a lens for learning? Shepley Bulfinch’s large-scale healthcare projects, which span from heart center renovations to the expansion of clinical care spaces, are often high-visibility high-profile projects that impact their campus through their sheer volume and program. Although different in size, our small-scale healthcare projects pack an equally big punch and have similar benefits for clients. Whether an equipment replacement, small space build-out, or a quick program study, our teams provide the same attention and services for these smaller scopes.

Small projects allow us to work closely with more people, deepening trust with clients and opening opportunities for repeat clients which can benefit long-term growth for both clients and the firm. Mark Barkenbush of Banner Health has noted, “I like the style and the methods [Shepley Bulfinch] uses to conduct schematic design, and their planning meetings are very effective with large, diverse groups.” No matter the project size or scope, we prioritize processes that provide a client experience which meets schedule and budgets.

Healthcare patient room
North Shore Physicians Group | Primary Care Practice Rowley

Shepley’s Revit User Group has been developing what has been coined “container files.” This tool collects details for a campus or client to help lean teams reference building and client standards, which in turn supports the fast schedules and lean budgets required for these smaller scales. We often remind our clients despite having a lean team, everyone at Shepley is only one Teams call away. Those tasked with delivering a small project to any client, have the same full resources as any of our other projects: Revit User Group (RUG, for Revit questions), Technical Advisory Group (TAG, for technical questions), and Healthcare Education and Learning Platform (HELP, for healthcare resources and questions), which are just a few of the many resources Shepley’s developed over the years.

Many members on our healthcare teams spend a significant amount of their career working on small projects. As a result of these rapid processes and experiences, a small group of team members including me, Anita Leung, and Kelsi Schwede have been developing a Small Project Framework to study how we can efficiently deliver small projects in a large firm. This framework helps employees identify internal resources for these fast-paced projects, outlining a fee approach for lean budgets, and suggestions on how to build lean teams. While we continue to deliver small projects with efficient results, both for design and schedule, we spend considerable time promoting knowledge transfer among our peers sharing learnings that better assist our clients with their “smaller” challenges. When discussing the range of opportunities, Robb Connor, another Bulfinch, said, “Small projects can be highly specialized to address a specific client need or in support of MEP with them as prime (i.e. façade restoration, sub-station replacement, etc.). All great experience builders!”

Healthcare waiting room
Arizona Allergy Associates | San Tan Office (1). Bridgeport Hospital | NICU Renovation Schemtic Design (r). 
Healthcare lobby

Internally, we’ve also discovered many growth benefits from small projects. When the Small Project Framework team asked Project Managers and Project Architects to evaluate the impact of small projects, the vast majority noted the speed of which they’re learning and growing. By having a lean team, employees wear many hats and learn new responsibilities. Liz Normand AIA, ACHA reflected, “I enjoy small projects because you can see many aspects of a project and complete it in a matter of months rather than the years – the feedback loop is tighter and more beneficial.” As small projects advance, we’re able to discover new design methods and apply these lessons instantaneously to ongoing projects, a benefit for both creation and collaboration.

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