Learn how to select an architect

(This is the second part of a two-part series on renovation and building in same-day surgery. In last month’s issue, we offered direction on how to decide whether to build, and we discussed the role that case mix plays.)

An architect with experience in building or renovating space to create a day surgery center is a valuable partner in your project, says Steve Dickerson, AIA, principle architect at Eckert Wordell in Kalamazoo, MI.

Not only should the person you hire understand the codes and regulations that apply to surgery centers, but he or she should understand how a surgery center operates in terms of patient flow, workspace needs, and business office requirements, says Dickerson.

Because renovation will be going on at the same time the center is functioning, it requires careful coordination between the architect, the general contractor, and the specialty trades. It also requires special fire and safety watches, maintenance of positive air pressure and flow, efforts to avoid contamination of surgical areas, noise abatement during construction, and safety protection for staff and visitors.

If your state is highly regulated and the state architectural staff are not always easy to work with, it also may help to have an architect who has a positive track record working on other licensed projects reviewed by the same state agency that you will have to face.

There are several ways to find an architect. "One way is to get names of architects used by other day surgery center managers," recommends Dickerson. Another way is to contact the American Institute of Architects (AIA), he says. The organization can refer people to architects by specialty and by geographic region. (For information on how to contact the AIA, see resource box, below left.)

Be sure to look at other centers he or she has designed and talk with surgery center personnel who worked with the architect. Also, talk about method of payment before you sign an agreement, says Dickerson. "Be wary of anyone who charges fees based on a percentage of construction costs. This method encourages the architect to design a more expensive project." Negotiating a lump sum fee at the beginning of the project is the best method for most people, he adds.

The AIA also produces a booklet that offers advice on finding, negotiating and working with your architect — You and Your Architect. Dickerson recommends this free publication as a good way to make sure you ask the right questions at the beginning of your relationship. n

To obtain a copy of You and Your Architect or to find names of architects who specialize in health care or surgery centers in your area, contact:

The American Institute of Architects, 1735 New York Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20006. Telephone: (800) 365-2724 or (202) 626-7300. Web site: www.aiaaccess.com.