Keeping the “ring of risk” in the middle

Brad Pollitt has dedicated his career to healthcare design and construction, having since 1989 overseen University of Florida Health/Shands’ more than six million square feet of facilities. With planning underway for Skanska’s second hospital for UF Health/Shands – the $225 million expansion for their hospital’s cardiovascular/neuroscience programs – we talked with Pollitt about succeeding through integrated teams and the future of healthcare project delivery.

Brad Pollitt, vice president of facilities University of Florida Health/Shands – Gainesville, Fla.
Brad Pollitt, vice president of facilities
University of Florida Health/Shands – Gainesville, Fla.

How do you select project partners?

I take great care in interviewing the people that want to work with us. I want not just a corporate commitment, but a personal commitment too. We hire people, not companies.

What’s something you do to bring project teams together?

Construction projects have what I call the ring of risk. The ring starts out in the center of the table, with everybody generally knowing how much risk they have to own. But traditional construction delivery is antagonistic, and soon everybody is pushing on the ring to try and keep it away from them. If everyone pushes equally, the ring stays in the middle and everyone knows where they are. But not all companies and not all people are equal, so the ring eventually begins to slide. And then you see adverse and unexpected behaviors as people do what they can to get it back in the middle. You end up with the ring moving all over, causing uncertainty in a project and putting someone in a losing situation.

On the UF Health/Shands Cancer Hospital that was completed in 2009 with Skanska, the overall project team decided that if for some reason the ring of risk started to shift, everyone would work together to put it back in the middle of the table. I’d see this in action over and over again: one of the assistant superintendents would work with the engineer or the architect to help solve a problem. If money was involved, we as the owner would pitch in too. We all worked together to maintain the project’s schedule, its quality and its ultimate success.

What do you predict about the future of delivering healthcare facilities?

With capital becoming less available to healthcare providers, we have to get smarter about delivering facilities. Every hospital out there is a one-off with a unique design. And while we’re prefabricating select areas of projects – such as headwalls, bathrooms and overhead MEP system racks – those are still unique designs. The next step is having a selection of maybe five patient bathroom types from which hospitals nationwide can choose. Maybe we can do the same thing for operating rooms too. Creativity is good to a point, but efficiency is becoming more important to healthcare providers.

Shands_Interior_surgery 3
Industry-standard designs for operating rooms and patient bathrooms should help increase the efficiency of healthcare facility delivery, Pollitt said.

What’s something that design and construction professionals may not realize about those wearing the owner’s hat?

For the outside people we hire to work on a project, their day job is designing or constructing buildings. For the medical professionals or physical plant staff or even the executives who support these projects from the owner’s side, they’re doing so in addition to their full-time jobs – whether that’s caring for patients or operating buildings or so on. While our people may know a lot about open-heart surgeries, for example, they don’t know a lot about constructing buildings. All they know is their hospital is about to spend a lot of money on a project, and with so much money on the line, they need to trust you.

Skanska USA

Skanska USA

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development companies in the U.S., serving a broad range of clients in the public and private sectors, including those in transportation, power, industrial, water/wastewater, healthcare, life science, education, sports & entertainment, data centers, government, aviation and commercial industries.

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