New insulated metal panel (IMP) technology is offering avenues to cleaner, safer medical facilities at a time when infection control and regulatory demands are outpacing traditional construction methods.
In an increasingly competitive healthcare industry with an aging U.S. population driving demand for medical services, the healthcare industry is facing growth in demand for new construction and renovations to existing facilities.
That is why Metl-Span’s new FRP CleanSeam™ insulated metal panel technology is such an important development in medical facility construction. The panels, manufactured with Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP), are virtually seamless, more durable, and easy to clean. They also provide a sanitary environment without the need for strenuous upkeep. All these factors make this technology ideal for interior construction of medical facilities, such as exam rooms, operating rooms and emergency rooms.
Introduced amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, FRP CleanSeam™ has been an important advancement in medical construction at a time when the healthcare industry is facing unprecedented demands.
In general, healthcare construction has always faced unique challenges around infection control, safety regulations and costs associated with 24-hour operation, but COVID-19 has forced healthcare design and construction professionals to rethink traditional industry solutions.
Healthcare systems are more focused than ever on buildings that incorporate sustainable, adaptable designs with materials that are easily sanitized to improve the patients’ experience and protect public health. Moving forward, the healthcare industry will demand more innovative solutions to address these evolving challenges, while also keeping costs low.
COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of incorporating surface materials that are easily sanitized to protect patients from exposure to new infections contracted during their medical treatment. These healthcare-associated infections are a significant burden globally, with millions of patients affected each year. The cleanliness of a medical facility is not only vital to protect the health of patients and staff, but it can also impact the perceived level of care.
Recently, healthcare systems have rapidly enhanced infection control procedures with more frequent cleaning and increased use of bleach-based chemicals. The traditional industry solution − walls built with stainless steel insulated metal panels − requires caulk to seal the joints. While stainless steel has strong antimicrobial properties, over the course of hundreds of corrosive washes the caulk can degrade, allowing water to permeate the joint and foster the growth of microbes. In addition to the potential risk of infection, the joints require maintenance over time, increasing overhead costs.
The fiberglass reinforced plastic technology of FRP CleanSeam™ panels provides a corrosion-resistant surface over the traditional insulated metal panel. The FRP CleanSeam™ panels nest together through double-jointed edges to create a continuous, smooth and hygienic surface. In addition, Metl-Span has developed a revolutionary FRP CleanSeam™ caulk system that creates a durable bond to withstand frequent high pressure and high temperature washes with corrosive chemicals. Unlike silicone sealants, which can deteriorate under frequent cleanings, the FRP CleanSeam™ caulk hardens to the seam and becomes an impenetrable part of the panel, keeping moisture and bacteria out.
With evolving patient care practices, healthcare systems are also looking for more flexible building designs that provide adaptable spaces to enhance efficiency and accommodate future growth or changes in safety protocols.
In light of these demands, FRP CleanSeam™ panels can feature fiberglass reinforced plastic on one side for walls or on both sides for consecutive rooms or partitions. In addition, the panels are available with optional PVC trims for a smooth wall-to-floor or wall-to-ceiling transition, offering a modern design aesthetic.
The technology is more energy efficient, as well. Hospitals and other medical facilities that operate 24/7 can use twice the energy of other facilities, leading to higher operating costs. Maintaining room temperatures that are cool and comfortable for patients can be costly in facilities constructed with traditional materials. The innovative combination of insulated metal panels manufactured with fiberglass reinforced plastic creates a more sustainable, energy-efficient solution. The FRP CleanSeam™ panels are also UL-certified and have superior R-values, allowing precise temperature control.
While challenges from the pandemic have placed a strain on healthcare facilities, the shift in focus to a more innovative design presents a great opportunity for the medical construction industry to implement new and inventive materials. With manufacturers answering the call for creative solutions, construction and design professionals can pioneer the way toward a safer, more sustainable healthcare environment.