As I write this, I’m enjoying a brief pause from a whirlwind of recent travel. It seems, just like that, life is back to some semblance of normal. And while my body’s still trying to get used to jet lag, hotel sleep, and meals on the road, I know you’re right there with me. As I’ve bounced around from meeting to meeting and conference to conference, I’ve had the joy of running into many of you along my way.
I’ve learned a lot from these serendipitous encounters, most notably that you are hair-on-fire busy.
While it varies from person to person and firm to firm regarding how significant the work slowdown was at the height of COVID-19, there’s no question that a universal surge in project work is happening now. In fact, I’ve talked to many industry members who told me their organizations are nearing the point of turning down requests for proposals (if they haven’t already). Staffers have run out of available hours in the day, and talent acquisition and retention remain pain points.
This flurry of activity isn’t just an effort to catch up after the last couple of years but a race against rising interest rates, labor shortages, and supply chain issues, as well. Schedules are, at times, at the mercy of material and product availability. I attended a session at the ASHE PDC show in March on supply chain impact on healthcare project delivery, where panelists urged attendees to get as ahead of the game as possible by asking questions not only of direct suppliers regarding availability but anticipating that suppliers to those suppliers may also be facing challenges. I was reminded of this at our recent Environments for Aging Conference + Expo, where I chatted with a friend who works for a flooring company—and, sure enough, when I asked about disruptions on their end, it was a shortage of materials they use to manufacture products that’s causing delays.
I’ve been given estimates of nine months to two years before industry members expect things to calm, and that means you all will be tasked with either being patient or creative—or likely a little bit of both. By far, the most common solution to some of these issues that I’ve heard discussed (specifically to resolve challenges of cost and schedule) is to better leverage modular and prefabricated construction. I have to say, I’ve been covering healthcare design for many years, and it’s been a while since these topics have been embraced with such vigor.
We’ve long seen the usual suspects like modular walls and prefabricated bathroom pods adopted in healthcare, and I’m excited to see how this initial work progresses going forward. And as a bit of a sneak peek, it’s a topic we’ll be diving into in a few ways in October at our 2022 HCD Conference + Expo in San Antonio. In fact, that will be my next plane ride: a team site visit to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center to start laying plans for our time together there.
In the meantime, if you see me around, let’s grab a coffee. I think we’ll both need one.