Small Projects for Big Health: DPR’s Special Services Group Sees Growth in Healthcare Work

An example of adaptive reuse, Texas Children’s Outpatient Therapy and Specialty Care Clinics were constructed in 17,500 sq. ft. of an existing suburban strip mall in Houston. Photo by Jud Haggard Photography
These $2.7 million clinic renovations took three months to complete. Photo by Jud Haggard Photography

It’s no secret that the healthcare industry is undergoing tremendous transformational changes.

Skyrocketing demand for healthcare services thanks to government-mandated reform, aging patient populations, the continued pressure to do more with less, and a host of scientific, technological and medical care delivery advancements are all forcing the healthcare industry to re-evaluate where and how to provide services.

Two years ago, in the wake of the national debate over healthcare reform, DPR published the “Future of Healthcare.” A yearlong effort to interview and survey more than 40 executives and leaders in the healthcare and architecture/engineering/construction (AEC) industries, the Future of Healthcare study identified the most significant, long-term trends facing healthcare and their potential impact on facilities and projects.

DPR is now seeing some of those trends manifested in the numerous healthcare projects it’s working on, particularly those that are coming to its Special Services Group (SSG). SSG is DPR’s team of builders who focus on quicker and smaller-scale projects.

The bulk of DPR’s work within the healthcare sector during the past several years has consisted mostly of a handful of new, large-scale, high-profile projects, such as the Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, CA, and the massive UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay in San Francisco.

In contrast, DPR has completed more than 7,500 projects usually valued in the $5 million or less range. About 20 percent of these small-scale projects were in the healthcare sector.


The overarching theme in DPR’s Future of Healthcare study is the continued pressure to be more efficient and to do more with less. That means many renovation projects are occurring in or around existing facilities, which must remain open during construction. That also means many renovation projects involve adaptive reuse of existing buildings that may not have been used for healthcare.

DPR recently completed a critical-need renovation project in less than nine weeks at Rex Hospital in Raleigh, NC. This $400,000, 300-sq.-ft. renovation project involved replacing an existing sterilization area and cart washers that serve the hospital’s operating rooms.

To enable the existing sterilization area to remain operational, DPR had to create temporary containment fields within the occupied space. Creating the fields was necessary because the project space resided between an area where contaminated operating room materials and equipment were processed and where new materials and equipment were prepped for use in the operating rooms. Additionally, the project area needed to be positively pressurized during construction, and negatively pressurized when the sterilizers were used.

Another example of this trend is the $2.7 million Texas Children’s Outpatient Therapy and Specialty Care Clinics in Humble, TX, which will serve the Houston area. These clinics were recently constructed in 17,500 sq. ft. of an existing suburban strip mall, reusing space formerly occupied by a Blockbuster Video store, a restaurant and hair salon. Given the renovation of an existing facility and DPR’s expertise, this project took just three months to complete.


Outpatient services continue to be a significant driver of revenue growth for the healthcare industry. Healthcare insurers and providers continue to encourage prevention and patient wellness, and services previously performed in hospitals are increasingly moving to outpatient clinics.

One example of this transfer of services is HCA’s Medical Facility at Rutland Commons in Mechanicsville, VA, a one-story medical office building that also houses a freestanding emergency center. This facility is the third such freestanding emergency center in the Richmond area. The $5.4 million, 22,000-sq.-ft. facility also houses an imaging center and a medical laboratory facility.

DPR built this project from the ground up in just nine months. Despite excessive weather delays and client-driven changes, DPR completed the project nearly two weeks ahead of schedule.


The rise in existing facilities renovations has been helped along by the infrastructure and physical space required to store and manage vast amounts of digital data from telemedicine, home monitoring systems, point-of-care testing and electronic medical records.

During the span of less than 10 months, DPR completed more than 40 individual projects for Sutter Health that involved implementing an electronic health record system shared across four campuses and three remote sites operated by the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. All non-digital medical records, test results, patient information and other data that once took up valuable space in a hospital or other medical facility are now stored digitally on a centralized network, where the data can be easily accessed and shared among healthcare providers.

Each of the projects, which ranged in value from $20,000 to $1.6 million, required retrofitting a host of critical-need spaces, from operating and patient rooms to catheterization laboratories and pharmacies, which in each instance required minimizing the impact on the daily operation of these spaces.

DPR upgraded the structural, mechanical and electrical elements of new and existing rooms that housed network servers and equipment, such as adding electrical power and systems to efficiently operate and cool the equipment.

Read more about the predictions made in the Future of Healthcare study.