Magnetic Attraction

MRi Suites, various locations

Montgomery Sisam Associates Inc. Architects

In the highly competitive medical equipment market, health care providers usually procure new technologies, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRi) machines, through competitive Requests for Proposal (RFPs). Increasingly, the RFPs require not only supply and installation of the equipment itself, but also the design and construction of the spaces that accommodate the machines in total turnkey packages that limit the investment of time and resources on the client’s part.

Recently, one equipment manufacturer has sought to establish a competitive advantage by incorporating a higher standard in the design of these environments. Responding to the perception that most medical equipment installations were carried out in architecturally indifferent spaces, General Electric Medical Systems (GEMS) sought to offer, as part of their total package, added value to both staff and patients in the form of good design.

To this end, GEMS has been working with Montgomery Sisam Associates Inc. Architects, a Toronto firm with an established reputation for the design of sympathetic health care environments, primarily in Long Term Care projects (see CA November 2000). Many of the strategies used to enhance the residential qualities of these large institutional buildings have been adopted and adapted for the smaller MRi clinics.

As is often the case for health care environments, patients using the MRi suites may be in the state of heightened stress and vulnerability that often accompanies the prospect of serious illness. In addition, the nature of the equipment itself can be disconcerting, particularly for those susceptible to feelings of claustrophobia. The spaces are specifically designed with these issues in mind. Form, colour, proportion and material are used to provide a counterpoint to the potentially intimidating machinery, and daylight is introduced to minimize the possibility of claustrophobia. Ample storage space ensures that the rooms are left unencumbered by the clutter of supporting medical equipment.

A presentation of preliminary design strategies forms part of GEMS’ sales initiative, with the preparation of detailed design, construction drawings and specifications following a successful sale. Conducted by means of a construction management process, the projects have very quick turnaround times, ranging from two to five months from design to completion of construction.

GEMS’ strategy of incorporating in their installations the value added by thoughtful architectural design appears to have been effective: client feedback suggests that the high quality of the designs has influenced the awarding of contracts, and that the spaces have contributed to reduced patient anxiety and fewer patients rejecting treatment. MP

Client: General Electric Medical Systems

Architect team: Robert Davies (principal in charge), David Sisam, Martin Dolan, Chris Burbidge, Amin Ebrahim

Structural: Stantec Consulting Ltd.

Mechanical/Electrical: Crossey Engineering

Construction manager: PCL Constructors

Photography: Ed White Photographic