Factory Blue

The temperature was soaring, but construction on a large-scale hospital project is not stopping. And the heat really wasn't that bad, because the workers were inside. 

From electrical, plumbing to metal and carpentry, subcontractors and construction workers are all working under one roof, literally.

Construction on the $150-million Texas Health Hospital is in full swing in Mansfield.

However, the project's architect and general contractor, Dallas-based The Beck Group, is designing and constructing parts of the hospital off-site at Factory Blue in Fort Worth.

A part of The Beck Group, Factory Blue is the only multi-trade prefabrication facility in North Texas.

Prefabrication is a commercial construction process of manufacturing and constructing a building's components and modules to be later delivered, set-up and joined on site.

"We have a labor shortage across the country, and primarily here in North Texas," Beck's associate principal Jennifer Cull said during a recent tour of the factory. "When we can move this work off-site into a controlled environment here in the factory, where we can make sure that we have that efficiency and that schedule certainty, it's just a win-win for everyone."

Compared to on-site construction, contractors can expect more favorable outcomes from prefabrication.

Prefabrication reduces waste materials as it eliminates various on-site material and equipment requirements. Being inside of a facility, the construction process becomes weather-proof, which contributes to schedule assurance.

For workers, working inside means a safer and more convenient environment.

"All of that really leads to a better quality of work," Cull said, "if you're comfortable and you can work in table height, instead of hanging off a side of a ladder on a building."

Factory Blue has incorporated prefabrication for a renovation project at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

Factory Blue is also incorporating its prefabrication capabilities for designing skyports for Uber Elevate, the company's aerial ridesharing platform. Beck is one of the finalists being considered for building the skyports.

Prefabrication, or manufacturing construction components in a factory, is a relatively new concept. However, the construction trend is poised for high-yielding growth.

A report by Market Research Future, a global analyst firm, estimates the prefabricated building market will be worth about $136 billion by 2023.

"It's a lot easier to make modular, these individual components. But when you add in a floor and a ceiling to that and just the ability to move those from a factory to a job site becomes incredibly difficult," Cull said. "We will get there, but right now, it's like, 'let's bite off what we can do successfully' and use opportunities we have to push the envelope and prototype those things so that we can continue to grow."

In the Texas Health Hospital Mansfield project, Factory Blue is prefabricating 56 surgical and ICU patient room restroom pods, 56 headwalls for them and 4 labor room headwalls. Factory Blue is also prefabricating the building's external wall panels on the ground at the hospital location.

From scratch to almost-finish, the toilet pods are built at the factory.

When the individual pods are transported to the job site, it will be attached with tiles, grab bars, toilet, toilet papers, mirrors and sink – all including plumbing and electrical connections.

Toilet Pod mock-up

Toilet Pod mock-up

Only the flooring with be made on-site, because, any kinds of bumps or uneven surfaces between the patient room and the toilet are not allowed in health care.

After planning, the design process begins with 3D-printing the prototypes, ensuring the consistency and quality of construction parts and eliminating any guesswork or scrapping materials on the job site.

About a dozen completed toilet pods were shrink-wrapped and transported to Mansfield earlier in August. The remaining 44 pods are being prefabricated and delivered on a floor by floor basis. At least 24 new pods will arrive at the construction site the first week of September.

Similar to a conventional manufacturing plant, in Factory Blue, the pods are built in an orderly fashion going through an assembly line. There are four framing tables with templates, where different parts and materials are fitted and worked on at different times.

All in all, it takes about 15 days to manufacture a toilet pod.

Finally, the pods are moved to individual wooden pallets. The pods stay on top of them until it is transported and moved into the building to its final location.

Located on the southeast corner of U.S. Highway 287 and Lone Star Road in Mansfield, Texas Health Hospital is a 38-acre medical campus.

The project is Texas Health Resources and AdventHealth's second joint venture in North Texas. The first one being Texas Health Huguley Hospital Fort Worth South.

The new Mansfield campus is slated to open in January 2021 with the four-story general community hospital building and an 80,000-square-foot medical office building that will house primary care and specialty practices.

As the population of Mansfield continues to grow, expansion projects on the medical campus are already in the pipeline.

"Our partnership between Texas Health and AdventHealth has been very successful in South Fort Worth, so we're excited to expand that to another campus," Kenneth Rose, president and CEO of Texas Health Mansfield Hospital told the Business Press. "For us, we're going to have a people-centered culture in our building in Mansfield. So, it's important for us to hire the right people who will be able to deliver excellent care to the people in that Mansfield market."

The Beck Group previously worked with Texas Health as the general contractor and architect for its Behavioral Health unit in 2014.

Beck also designed and built Texas Health Recovery and Wellness Center, located about 3 miles north of the new Mansfield medical campus.

"Mansfield is at a point now where we believe it can support two hospitals," Rose said. "And as it continues to grow, it's going to need two hospitals. With the amount of babies being born and people moving there, they're going to need healthcare."

He added: "It's an awesome community, it's going to be an awesome hospital and we can't wait to get in there and start working."

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