Background: The Building Process: More Than Meets the Eye

It’s exciting to see a new hospital or health care building constructed in your community, but it may seem like a long wait from the time the building looks to be finished, until patients are able to walk through the doors. 

Hospitals and other health facilities have sophisticated systems for back-up power, medical gases, nurse call communications and many other features not normally found in other types of buildings. Though a building may look finished from the outside, it must still undergo several extra steps before it can open for business.

When contractors finish construction, called “Practical Performance,” there is a formal and thorough process to test all building systems to ensure they function properly. Then, maintenance and engineering staff are trained to operate and maintain the new building. This process of “Building Commissioning” can take many weeks.

Equally important, nurses, technicians, physicians, surgeons and other staff must complete an orientation to become familiar with the building’s systems and new pieces of equipment, such as new surgical lights, CT scanners and patient ventilation or computer systems. This process of “Operational Commissioning” can also take many weeks.

Finally, there is the actual move of people and patients into the new facility. This is a complicated project involving significant planning and communication with staff, patients, families and the general public.

The need to ensure a smooth transition from old facilities to new through Building Commissioning, Operational Commissioning, and move planning means that there can be a gap of several months between the completion of health facility construction and its use by patients.