Here’s a little quiz for healthcare contractors and facility managers: when should you start to think about how you are going to access all the ducts, wires, and other pieces of your facility that live above the ceiling tiles? Is it:
- during the planning phase
- during the construction phase
- during the maintenance phase
- all of the above
Any seasoned healthcare contractor knows that ceiling access should be a part of the conversation from the very beginning of a hospital construction or renovation project. After all, you know ceiling access will be necessary at some point. So shouldn’t you start planning for it right away?
The Planning Phase
Before construction begins on a new healthcare project or renovation, think about what will live above the ceiling. Many facilities have duct work, air filtration systems, cabling and wires above ceiling panels. The default may be to design a facility with similar systems, but as a contractor, if you and hospital administration can spend more time planning for how these systems will be maintained, you may be able to devise something that is easier to access without compromising patient safety.
In order to make ceiling access as easy as possible in a new facility, consider planning for a specific ceiling access portal where workers can get into the ceiling without disturbing patients or putting them at risk for potential infection from dust and debris. In some instances, this is easier said than done, but certain elements can be built in easily accessible ways. For instance, HEPA filters in clean rooms and other highly sterilized environment need to be inspected and changed on a regular basis. Planning for these in a way that makes them easy to access can make this maintenance much easier.
The Construction Phase
If ceiling access was properly accounted for during the planning phase, then the construction phase of the project should merely be a matter of following through on those plans. If the construction is being completed during a renovation, maintaining patient safety throughout construction is crucial. This may mean closing a wing of the facility completely or else installing moveable containment walls or using an anteroom system to keep all patient areas free from dust and debris.
The Maintenance Phase
Over the course of a career, some maintenance may need to be performed in a facility that has not done the planning ahead. When you have to access a ceiling that does not have an easy access point, you will need to thoroughly consider how to facilitate the project with a minimum amount of potential contamination. A portable dust containment unit may well be the best way to do this, because they are both efficient and effective at keeping harmful spores and dust away from patients (presuming they are equipped with proper HEPA filtration systems).
For cabling maintenance, the use of a Cabling Access Point (CAP) may also be a useful tool, since it can allow workers to pull cable in environments such as data centers and healthcare facilities with minimal disturbance.
The important thing to remember as a contractor is that ceiling access is likely going to be necessary in any healthcare project. The sooner you are able to consider the possibilities for ceiling access, the better maintained the facility can be in the long term.