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IMAGE CREDIT: Lindsay Nicole Photography

Leveraging Temporary Spaces for Reconfiguration

How Adaptive Reuse Turned into a Six-Figure Savings for a National Health System

You know the old saying about the three most important things in real estate, right? Turns out location is still key. When Mankato Clinic in Minnesota was looking to relocate one of their main buildings, they spent almost two years looking for a new place. Then they realized that they couldn’t do better than the building they already had. So, it was time for a refresh.

To do that, they planned to build out a temporary space to act as their new home while they overhauled the original location. But building a clinic only to tear it down a few months later didn’t make sense. Especially to a company that values sustainability. That’s how they ended up working with DIRTT.

As a construction system that leverages prefabricated multi-trade modular construction, DIRTT allowed them to create a new space, and then repurpose the parts and pieces later. It’s a strategy that supported sustainability and budget.

“Our CFO at the time felt that the numbers really made sense as far as the cost of DIRTT versus traditional construction,” says Chrissy Anderson, Regional Senior Director of Operations, Mankato Clinic. “On the front end, it's not super different, but then when you're making these adjustments further on, like being able to update colors in certain panels and things like that, it just made more sense.”

Using DIRTT, they built a temporary space which included exam rooms, nurse’s stations, and med-prep areas. Because DIRTT is manufactured off-site for quick installation, the space came together quickly. With the temporary space complete, the clinic could relocate to start renovating their existing site.

“We were able to get started on the new building two months earlier than we would have building it out with traditional construction,” says Tim McKee, chairman and CEO of general contractor Timco.

After 18 months in the temporary space, Mankato Clinic was able to move back into their original location and plan their next move.

Adaptive reuse

Using the adaptable DIRTT system meant the health system could disassemble their temporary space and put it into storage until the time was right. Over the next few months, they assessed their needs and realized that they needed two smaller clinics in separate parts of the state. One in Alexandria and one in Mankato. Thanks to the temporary space, they already had a lot of what they needed to build it out.

“I don't think we used (DIRTT) the way that you're supposed to use it,” says Anderson. “I think the intention is that you modify within the space that you applied it to originally, and then we're just like, no, we're going to move in two different ends of the state, because that's what we do.”

Alexandria had a 2,800 square foot floor plate. Mankato was 3,600. To kit them out, they dug into their supply of DIRTT. Building with a set of programmatic standards meant that the exam and procedure rooms could be rebuilt with the same specifications on the other end. It’s estimated that the clinic was able to reuse about 80% of their existing DIRTT. This reduced material waste, schedule, and cost.

“We were able to meet a pretty aggressive timeline for both facilities,” says Anderson.

I would say (we) probably (saw) a six-figure savings in Mankato, probably $50 or $60,000 for Alexandria.

Chrissy Anderson, Regional Senior Director of Operations, Mankato Clinic

DIRTT Install technicians install a repurposed wall assembly

IMAGE CREDIT: Lindsay Nicole

Thoughtful design

Planning for a project like this means thinking things through to get the best results. In this case, standardizing exam rooms and nurse’s stations not only created easily repeatable work flows, but allowed for an easier reconfiguration. It also means that if they need to make any updates in the future, DIRTT’s adaptability will make it easy.

“With our other spaces, a lot of times… we'll have three exam rooms, but we want two procedure rooms. Procedure rooms are bigger than exam rooms, and so… we need to move this wall four feet and take up this space,” says Anderson. “Or let's say we wanted to add some sort of medical gas into the into the building. Being able to make those changes was important. It's just easier to retrofit the DIRTT than it is to start carving up walls and traditional construction.”

IMAGE CREDIT: Lindsay Nicole

As Mankato Clinic was looking to evolve, they looked at the branding and aesthetics of their spaces. They wanted a lighter feeling and moved from a brown palette to lighter blues and whites. They also brightened the space by using glass walls to help with the transfer of daylight to improve patient and staff experiences. All these design choices implemented in the temporary clinic were transferred seamlessly to the new space.

Then, of course, there is the ever-present issue of acoustics in healthcare environments. “One of the other challenges that we have is sound transfer, right? Privacy between rooms,” says Anderson. DIRTT’s holistic approach to acoustics means considering every aspect of the space, from insulation to door type to ceiling connection. “I think DIRTT actually performs better than traditional construction in terms of privacy. So, that was a benefit that I wasn't expecting.”

I think DIRTT actually performs better than traditional construction in terms of privacy. So, that was a benefit that I wasn't expecting.


Old wall assemblies updated with a new color palete

IMAGE CREDIT: Lindsay Nicole

Building better

After years of planning, the two clinics are completed and Anderson says that her staff are thrilled with the results. Mankato Clinic created an agile space to support their team and saved money doing it, which is key for a not-for-profit organization.

“It was really like taking these components that were designed specifically for this particular space and then saying, ‘can we move them into two very different spaces with two very different shells and still make them work?’” says Anderson. “And yeah, we really can. And we're successful with it. It looks fantastic.”

Adaptive reuse to support different sized exam and procedure rooms

IMAGE CREDIT: Lindsay Nicole

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