Friday, January 23, 2009

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Every now and then an equipment planner will come across someone even more anal retentive than themselves. But not very often. We can rattle off: Water, steam, drain, vent, gas, vac, data, volts, watts, amps, BTU's like some frat boy reciting the Greek alphabet during pledge week.

So after months specifying the "perfect" compliment of equipment; identifying alcoves for every stretcher, wheelchair and C-arm; and coordinating the infrastructure requirements with the electrical and mechanical engineers, we expect everything to be perfect.

So when I get a call that the lead apron racks are pulling out from the walls in two locations on a recent project, I'm not too happy.

We'll it turns our that the "perfect" location that was planned for them was changed to a new location. (This can happen when you're not on-site to supervise the installation.) So now I'm standing in the sub-sterile room looking at 4 holes in the wall, a dusting of drywall powder on the floor and about 80 pounds of lead aprons clumped together like a 5th graders laundry pile. The lead apron rack has been neatly leaned up against a wall, clearly identifying it as the culprit to this mess.

"Why didn't you put the bracket where it was shown on the plans? Where all of the backing is?" I ask. "We wanted it over here." Is the response...

I can feel the urge for sarcasm growing in me. But, instead I take a few dimensions and go order a custom wall plate. It spans two studs and allows the apron rack to be installed in the new location with ample wall support to keep it from ripping through the drywall again.

My take-away from this little exercise is a mental note to start having the contractor provide wall backing in both a primary AND a secondary location when there is the potential to have more than 1 mounting location. In addition, I'll start suggesting that wall backing span 4 studs. The additional construction cost is minimal and will allow for much greater flexibility when the staff who actually occupies the space wants to give their personal touch to the configuration.

For items such as ice makers and televisions, there are several utilities that help to identify the mounting location. (Electrical, data, plumbing, etc.) But, there are some items that will offer no clear indication of where they are to be mounted without looking at a layout drawing. (Like lead apron racks for example.)

When you are planning your project, make certain you take into account the opportunity for flexibility. An artificial sense of needing to have only 1 "correct" way to do things can come back to haunt you when other opinions enter the picture.

For Example:

A wall like this, with many utility connections, the opportunities are limited for placing wall backing.

But, if you have a large empty wall, go ahead and put backing in a large enough area to allow for some flexibility. The larger the area with backing, the more opportunity to allow alternative configurations.

Don't go crazy with it, but certainly consider the benefit of allowing the facility staff to configure to their liking. As an architect or planner, we are typically only around until the ribbon cutting ceremony. Give those that get to use the space in years 2 - 30 some options for using it the way they want to. Even if your way really is better : )

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