Prefabricated Modular exam rooms accelerate renovation of Northwestern Medicine office building in Bloomingdale

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In a first for Northwestern Medicine, the renovation of a medical office building in Bloomingdale, Illinois, features prefabricated modular exam rooms. More than 70 exam rooms are being built as pods off-site in an assembly-line fashion and delivered nearly complete to the medical office building construction site, where they are slid into place for final connections.

Hill Mechanical is building the prefab units. Cannon Design is the architect of record. Walsh Construction is the general contractor.

The project is a complete renovation of more than 50,000 sq. ft. in an existing building at 231-235 S. Gary Ave. The space will house a Northwestern Medicine Immediate Care, Physical Therapy and Diagnostic Imaging; as well as Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group specialties, including Primary Care, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Orthopedics and Gastroenterology.

The more than  exam rooms are being mass produced in an assembly line at Hill Mechanical’s shop in Franklin Park, in conjunction with Walsh Construction. The pods are 95 percent completed at the off-site shop with drywall, insulation, ceiling tiles, cabinets, sinks, electrical wiring and plumbing.

Nearly all the finishing touches are completed as well, including tile, paint, wallcovering, and millwork. Computer arms, blood pressure monitoring equipment, Sharps needle containers, and coat hooks are attached to the walls before delivery.

“The main advantage of modular pod construction is a more advantageous speed-to-market solution for project delivery, as well as the efficiency, safety and quality control of building in a controlled environment compared to a traditional construction setting,” said Dan Callaghan, project manager, Planning and Construction, Northwestern Medicine.

The pods are delivered to the Bloomingdale building three at a time on a flat-bed truck, where a crane lifts them onto a loading dock. The pods are pushed into place using industrial dollies, and all electrical, plumbing and vents are connected. Once all are in place, exterior drywall and flooring is completed, along with a few final touches such as hanging doors.

The building of the modular units is happening at the same time as the on-site development work, which also speeds up the construction process.

Callaghan estimates the project will be finished approximately four weeks faster compared to traditional construction, and if it wasn’t a phased project due to the need to continue offering medical services on the site during construction, the modular pods would have saved substantially more time.

While prefabricated modular units are more common in the hospitality industry, Northwestern Medicine director of planning and construction Charles Cloutier says the process is gaining traction in the healthcare industry. One reason is the ability to standardize all the exam rooms.

“It is very helpful for medical providers to be able to walk into any exam room and know exactly where everything is, and what to expect,” said Cloutier. “Standardization also helps significantly with flexibility allowing different specialties to use the same exam rooms depending on volume, which makes our real estate footprints more efficient.”

Phase one construction of the Bloomingdale Medical Office Building project will be completed in March of 2021 with the new Immediate Care opening. Phase two construction will be completed in October 2021, with the remainder of the building taking occupancy.

“Walsh Construction was honored to team up with Northwestern Medicine, Cannon Design and Hill Mechanical on Northwestern’s first prefabricated modular exam room project. Our goal in designing and building healthcare facilities is to help make sick people healthy, and this approach will get us there faster.” Tom Caplis, vice-president of Walsh Healthcare.


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