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Using Industrialized Construction to Improve Infection Prevention and Control

How thoughtful design and the right solution can make healthcare spaces safer

You’ve been to the hospital before. And you know the rule: don’t touch anything! It can seem strange when you first hear it. After all, doctors are meticulous about washing their hands and wearing clean scrubs. On the surface, medical facilities seem like a hygienic place. And they would be, if hospitals weren’t visited by so many sick people. 

Germs have the potential to run rampant at hospitals. Healthcare workers are at the front line of a relentless battle against illness. It’s one of the most important jobs in our society, especially in today’s world of mass travel and global pandemics. Did you know that between five and 10% of hospitalized people get an infection during their stay?  That’s why infection prevention and control (IP+C) is top of mind for healthcare professionals. 

 Clinical spaces built with infection prevention in mind

IMAGE CREDIT: Michael Mantese Photography

Let’s dig into IP+C and see how proper cleaning methods paired with good design can make healthcare facilities safer for both patients and medical professionals.

Infection prevention and control

Infection prevention and control sounds self-explanatory, doesn’t it? After all, it’s just keeping healthcare spaces clean, right? Well, yes. But while IP+C is a simple concept, implementing it is complicated. 

IP+C actually begins before a hospital or clinic is even built. Right from the start, experts known as infection prevention professionals are called in. They’re tasked with ensuring the design of the space is going to take infection prevention into account. This is crucial because germs can live on most surfaces. Walls, machines, computers, beds, and people. Almost anywhere you can think of, really. That means being methodical about planning a hospital or clinic. It has a serious impact on how germs survive once the space is in use. 

Point of contact

Proper infection prevention and control also has a lot to do with limiting transmission between people and objects. It’s a two-way street. A patient touches a doorknob. Then a nurse touches the same surface. Now they’re sharing germs. This is why doctors wash their hands before treating patients. But the way a space is designed can also have a massive impact on transmission. Planning a space to have the bare minimum of touch points is important too. 

Casework applications in a healthcare space

IMAGE CREDIT: Upper Left Photography

That’s why DIRTT provides our clients with a suite of solutions that reduce physical contact. Our custom casework can be designed with cutouts specifically designed to house medical supplies like gloves, masks, and sharps containers. Passthrough casework can be specified so that test samples are passed on without human contact. And our drawers and cabinets can be specified with electronic, one-touch open-and-close mechanisms to limit contact with the physical space.  

IP+C is also heavily influenced by cleaning and disinfecting healthcare spaces regularly. But the design of the space can make this much more efficient. That’s why hospital rooms are typically a bare-bones environment. You’ll rarely see hung art, detailed casework, or overly complicated design themes. This isn’t because hospitals don’t have the resources to do so. It’s because adding these types of features would make disinfecting a space an absolute nightmare. 

Build a space that is easy to clean

IMAGE CREDIT: Demin Photography

Think of IP+C as more of a holistic, long-term process instead of a simple one-time cleaning.

Solving the sanitization problem

Over the past 15 years, DIRTT has embraced that holistic approach required to meet even the most stringent of IP+C requirements. Our development team has worked closely with our healthcare team and industry experts to develop solutions that make cleaning easier while taking into account the principals that guide great healthcare design. 

It all starts in the design phase. We collaborate early to ensure that our client’s needs are met once the project is installed. The fact that we use our proprietary design integration software – ICE® – makes it a whole lot easier. Clients can walk through their space in virtual reality and ensure they’re going to get exactly what they need, well before we start building it off-site in our factories. But there’s more to it than that. 

Explore a space in virtual reality before it is ever built


DIRTT has created solutions that minimize the ability for germs to hide. Firstly, the gaps between our wall panels are sealed with infection prevention gaskets. We call it an optifiller and it ensures bacteria can’t get into the wall. Optifillers make a DIRTT wall as hygienic and easy to disinfect as any conventional wall, while providing the modularity to ease long-term maintenance. DIRTT also allows our clients to place monitors, displays, and clocks within the wall. With our patented integrated technology solutions, anything that is a pain to sanitize can be kept behind an easily cleanable surface. That’s a huge advantage when it comes to infection prevention. 

Embedded graphics and displays reduce infection transfer

IMAGE CREDIT: Emily Hagopian

Modular spaces make maintenance and adaptation easy

IMAGE CREDIT: Mike Roemer Photography

Maintain a clean space

DIRTT also allows healthcare spaces to work to their full potential, even when maintenance is required. In a conventionally built space, making changes can be a hazard to patient safety. Dust, debris, and generally unsanitary conditions mean that often an entire hospital wing needs to be closed to make even the most basic repairs. Because DIRTT is designed for disassembly (DfD), changes can be made in a fraction of the time without the associated disruption. With DIRTT, if a hospital needs to change out equipment or add an electrical outlet, they can do it quickly. And they may only have to close a single room. This keeps patients flowing through the healthcare system with no impact on IP+C in the rest of the building. 

Want to learn more about building a healthcare facility using industrialized construction?

Resources and Further Reading

National Library of Medicine: The rate and cost of hospital-acquired infections occurring in patients admitted to selected specialties of a district general hospital in England and the national burden imposed ↗ 

National Library of Medicine: Total and attributable costs of surgical-wound infections at a Canadian tertiary-care center ↗

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