Advocate Health Care, one of the largest health systems in Illinois, embraced integrated project design to create its new Advocate Christ Medical Center’s East Tower in Oak Lawn.

Embedded in the success of this approach is a focus on prefabrication. The use of prefabricated materials helped Advocate to reduce construction time and resulted in higher quality and a safer work environment. Historically, Advocate had utilized a system of room standards to gain operational efficiencies and to standardize nursing protocols.

The next evolution for Advocate was leveraging this knowledge with a modular or prefabricated room based on their room standards. For the East Tower, the decision was made to incorporate the patient room standards and to prefabricate the patient bathrooms within the project’s three floors of patient units.

This decision led to key successes and outcomes in quality, scheduling, safety and cost. Upon project completion, the pods were reviewed as part of the standard punch list process and only two minor quality issues were identified across the 88 pods.

This high level of performance achieved by the modular design’s factory production helped Advocate to utilize building materials more effectively and use fewer materials and resources for the overall production of the pods. This approach resulted in 25 fewer tradesmen on the project site and a 67 percent reduction in truck deliveries related directly to patient bathrooms. The pods were delivered to the site just in time for their installation, to minimize overall site congestion, eliminating 10 weeks of construction time and resulting in an 8 to 10 percent savings in the overall project schedule.

Advocate Health Care successfully utilized prefabricated patient bathrooms in two subsequent projects and increased the use of prefabrication by including mechanical-electrical-plumbing racks, mechanical equipment skids, patient headwalls and exterior precast wall panels. Advocate’s next step was to expand the modular elements of delivery to include full prefabrication of ambulatory care rooms.

Joan L. Suchomel, AIA, ACHA, EDAC, is senior vice president at CannonDesign. She can be reached at