Stephen Dempsey, Brigham, and Women’s Hospital Talks Construction


2 cranes used for construction, with blue sky background

Winterhalter attends AGC Program called “Owners talking about construction”, featuring guest speaker, Dempsey

Tom Winterhalter, Senior PM, recently attended an AGC Program called “Owners talking about construction”, featuring guest speaker Steve Dempsey, Director of Facilities, Planning, and Construction at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Steve talked about:

  • the future of healthcare construction
  • the selection criteria they use in selecting firms; their preferred project delivery methods
  • and the future plans for Brigham and Women’s.

Here are Tom’s takeaways:

Future of Healthcare

Steve said that the future of healthcare construction remains positive because of constant technological change (i.e. a better, but larger MRI, leading to a renovation), constantly changing regulations (which drive design guidelines, leading to a requirement for reconfigured space), and demographics (an aging population that demands the absolute best in healthcare). When asked about the potential impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Steve said he didn’t think it would have any significant impact on healthcare construction because of the above-mentioned factors. Steve said that a healthy hospital must be continually growing and reinvesting for the future. However, one expected impact of PPACA is the concept of “shared risk” between the hospital and the third-party payers. Steve said that this will lead to radiology (CT scans, MRI’s, etc.) becoming more of an overhead item (a cost of doing business), as opposed to the current “cash cow” status.

Selection Criteria

Steve acknowledged the difficulty of breaking into the healthcare market. Having relevant experience in a similar environment is the most important selection criterion. Due to the fast-paced environment and constantly changing JCAHO regulations, Steve said he doesn’t have time to teach new firms how to work in this environment. Even having experience working in healthcare at a satellite care center doesn’t qualify a firm to work in the main hospital on campus. In Steve’s words, “you’re not going to cut your teeth on my project”. Patient safety (preconstruction risk assessments and infection control) is the driving factor here.

Preferred project delivery method: CM-at-Risk (or as Steve likes to call it: “Owner-at-Risk”) is the preferred delivery method. Steve said he would like to explore hard bidding, but admitted that the delivery method doesn’t allow for the time to properly plan a healthcare project. The hospital maintains a select group of “preferred contractors”, and Brigham spreads the workaround to those firms. When asked about IPD, Steve said they are always looking for new and improved methods, but as of yet, they have not found the “right” project for an IPD delivery.

Future plans for Brigham and Women’s

They are about to break ground on a 450,000 sf lab building on campus. They are also starting to plan an additional 450,000 sf facility for construction later this decade. Once these 2 buildings are built, they will allow them to demolish some of their existing facilities and build a brand new hospital tower right in the middle of their campus. They are also planning an expansion of their ambulatory care center in Foxboro for later this summer.