Kelly Heitkamp

by Kelly Heitkamp

Interior Designer

A Guide to Success in Healthcare FF&E

  • JULY 17, 2015
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In the construction process, FF&E (furniture, furnishings and equipment) installation has one of the most sensitive time frames in the project. Just after construction wraps up, but not too long before the space will be occupied by its healthcare users and their patients. This tight time frame, and the importance of first impressions, means high expectations for success the first time around and little room for error.

Understanding these high stakes, what can be done to avoid pit falls and plan for a successful outcome?

Invite people with input to the table, and invite them early.

Healthcare FF&E

Early collaboration can make or break the success of a project. The industry term “FF&E” lumps together a wide range of product types. In the healthcare industry, this can range from ottomans to biohazard trash cans to ceiling mounted procedure lamps. Different stakeholders often know about, and care about, different aspects of what is needed, so it is important to capture input from the full team of people that will participate in the many different phases of the project—from conceptual design, through finite selections, and then all the way through to construction and installation.

The following groups all bring an important perspective and should be sitting at the table during initial architectural design and project planning meetings.

1. FF&E Planners and Experts
Furniture and equipment specialists, whether they are members of the architecture and design team or outside consultants, should have a thorough understanding of healthcare FF&E specification requirements. Whoever they are, it is critical that they are invited to the initial project planning meetings, as they bring a unique perspective and focus to the project. When it comes to specifying products, they will understand what features really make a piece of furniture appropriate for a healthcare setting. Bariatric requirements, wall saver features, level of durability, and fabric selection (typically a fabric that wears well, cleans easily, and helps minimize the spread of bacteria and bed bugs) are all things that an experienced healthcare FF&E planner will take into account.

2. Users
Giving users an opportunity to voice their opinion early in the process will help to expedite the planning process. The earlier you can understand the routine of the medical professionals using the space, the better you will be able to account for their specific requirements. The work flow of the occupants is often very specific to their practice and they will know exactly how they need their spaces to function – if not always what the options are for achieving the result they need. To that end, a thorough, experienced FF&E planning team will assist the users by asking questions meant to uncover alternate, and often better, design solutions to fulfill a user’s functional needs. For example, does their work flow require a particular piece of equipment to sit on a counter surface, or could it be wall mounted? Finding ways to take advantage of all available space in tight healthcare suites is a great opportunity to pursue a satisfying team approach to project planning.

3. Healthcare System Design and Construction Members
Understanding the standards of each healthcare system is critical to FF&E planning and execution success, and asking lots of questions is a great place to start. What is the existing vocabulary in the building? What type of products do they prefer to purchase? Are there items in the warehouse that can be re-used to help meet the project budget? What are the building maintenance routines? What products have or have not been successful in the past? The healthcare system team members bring these requests and knowledge of what is best for the healthcare system to the table. A good FF&E planning team will work with them to deliver the best project outcome.

4. Construction Team
Whether it seems as if the construction team should be involved in FF&E conversations or not, they bring an important perspective to the discussion. Will that wall mounted unit require blocking? Should we be planning for power and data? Will the counter height need to be adjusted for that under-counter model you are considering? All of these are concerns that should be coordinated in the construction documents. Having input from the construction team early on will help bring awareness to the coordination of FF&E with the building architecture, so these instances don’t come up as a surprise just before the furniture or equipment is scheduled to be installed.

Finally – communication, communication, communication. We’ve heard it a million times, and we know it is crucial when you’re working as a team. Embracing a team oriented attitude and focusing on communicating across trades will positively impact the end result of an FF&E project. By integrating FF&E early in the project planning process and capturing differing perspectives from the team, you’ll end up with a job done right, happy clients, and patients that have a positive first impression of a brand new space. Success!

Kelly Heitkamp

by Kelly Heitkamp

Interior Designer

Kelly is an interior designer at M+A and graduated from The Ohio State University. She enjoys cheering on the buckeyes and eating a good weekend brunch.