Integrated Facilities Solutions Inc.

There’s no question that renovation and expansion work in an active healthcare environment is one of the most challenging types of construction. There’s also no question that the extensive experience of Integrated Facilities Solutions (IFS) Inc. makes it one of the preferred program management firms in the Chicago area for projects of this nature. The company’s recent work on a $100 million campus improvement plan for NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Skokie Hospital in Skokie, Ill., is proof of that. IFS President and founder Tim Vander Molen says the extensive infrastructure project with its daily challenges is relatively routine for IFS due to its experience and up-front planning.

“Our experience has been almost exclusively in healthcare and more specifically in active hospitals, so we have a lot of experience in phasing and working around patients and the public,” Vander Molen says.

The project represents a major expansion for the hospital, expanding core clinical services, upgrading aging infrastructure and renovating patient areas for greater comfort. It also represents the next phase in the developing relationship between IFS and Skokie Hospital, one that Vander Molen says is off to a strong start. “We’ve been doing their project management for going on three years,” he says.

Getting an Upgrade

The $100 million, multiyear project kicked off in 2010 with the completion of a new lobby, which features areas for registration and concierge services, as well as more efficient pathways to clinical services. Vander Molen says the hospital’s original lobby was somewhat dark and cramped by comparison, but the new lobby features ample open areas for patients and visitors, including a fireplace. “The idea was to provide a better canopy to protect patients and visitors and better more inviting access at the entrance for patients,” he says.

Patient rooms also are receiving an upgrade as part of this project, with new floors, walls and furniture. The hospital says new telemetry systems and nurse call systems are part of the patient room upgrades, as well.

Behind the scenes, IFS is helping the hospital upgrade its mechanical and electrical infrastructure systems. In addition to enhanced emergency power and high-efficiency mechanical systems, the company is installing a new central plant. Vander Molen says the plant’s chillers are online now, with the boilers ready for completion within the next month. He adds the company has experience building central plants  and similar projects, making the Skokie Hospital installation relatively smooth. In particular, he says, the phasing of cross-connecting the utilities has been one of the more challenging aspects of the work, but IFS’s experience has helped it keep everything in hand. The IFS experience starts with the formation of an experienced team of designers and contractors that have worked in the industry and in similar previous settings. Having experienced, capable partners on a project of this size and complexity is important to its success.

Strong Foundation

IFS’s knowledge base, organizational skills and experience have been its greatest assets not only on the Skokie Hospital project, but on every other project it has taken on since its inception in 1998. Before starting the firm, Vander Molen served as facilities manager for a large Chicago-based healthcare provider for nearly 25 years, and he says he made sure IFS had a strong foundation of expertise not only in project management, but in the specific needs of the healthcare industry.

This includes being well-versed in the latest technology, which Vander Molen says is invaluable on projects such as Skokie Hospital. “Healthcare projects are always evolving, and you feel it more when you’re into the high-tech areas,” he says. For example, the complicated nature of the project’s central plant has necessitated greater use of collaborative software and modeling software. Because so many subcontractors and designers are involved in a central plant, this collaborative software allows faster communication and decision-making.

Keeping Up

As IFS continues its work on the campus of Skokie Hospital, Vander Molen says the company is glad to have such a strong reputation in healthcare, especially given the state of the industry as a whole. “Like anyone else involved in construction, the challenge is the amount of work that’s out there,” he says.

IFS won’t simply count on its reputation to carry it to new clients, however, as Vander Molen says the company is embarking on a more aggressive marketing campaign to healthcare providers. The company also is looking forward to a new ambulatory care center on the Skokie Hospital campus that will come online in 2013. With the relationship already established between IFS and the hospital, Vander Molen says, the company expects to be involved in more projects there for the foreseeable future.

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