The Boldt Co. was dipping its toe into making modular construction units until last March when the pandemic forced the Appleton company to dive right in.
“We started our lean journey about 10 years ago and as part of that, we began offsite manufacturing of components and began some prefabrication,” says Will Lichtig, chief of staff and executive vice president for performance and innovation at Boldt.
Boldt was working with Advocate Aurora on a plan to use modular construction for its new clinics. Last March, Lichtig says a prototype was put on the back of a truck and driven around the Appleton construction yard to see how it would hold up during transport when someone had an idea: What if Boldt could build a modular unit and deliver it to hospitals in need of additional space to treat COVID-19 patients?
With that, the STAAT (Strategic, Temporary, Acuity-Adaptable Treatment) Mod was born. Designed by the firm HGA, the STAAT Mod is a modular kit-of-parts that includes adaptable inpatient rooms, staff spaces, material and supply rooms, and fully integrated infrastructure. These components help the unit function as a hub for infectious patients, increase overall capacity, deploy a bridge strategy to a new facility or provide swing space to minimize schedule disruptions during a long-term renovation.
In short, the STAAT Mod provides a quick solution for health care providers in urgent need of additional space.
“This is an instance when a capability that was developed over time, met with opportunity and resulted in innovation,” Lichtig says. “Building in a controlled environment allowed our team to standardize the process, maintain quality and safety, increase speed to market, and ultimately help save lives.”
The STAAT Mod isn’t Boldt’s first foray into modular design. The firm used modular construction while building the bed tower at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton. Some construction was done offsite and then brought to the hospital ready to go into place.
“Modular construction requires planning and design to begin sooner in the process,” Lichtig says.
The first STAAT Mod opened last May at Adventist HealthCare Fort Washington Medical Center in Maryland. Lichtig says it doesn’t take long for Boldt to build a STAAT Mod. For example, construction began in August for a 71-bed unit ordered by Northside Hospital Gwinnett in Atlanta. Parts began shipping via semitruck in September and the unit opened to patients on Oct. 21.
“The STAAT Mod has a 20-year life span, making it durable enough to support a hospital’s longer-term strategy and is fully code compliant,” he says. “It can become a complete other unit for a medical facility.”
To manufacture the STAAT Mod, Boldt is using the former Manitowoc Cranes building in Manitowoc. There, each product is moved from one station to another on built-in rails on the floor.
“It starts as a steel skeleton and different components are added along the line,” Lichtig says. “It’s a factory pace — units move one spot farther down the line each shift. There are 10 stations on the line. This is a very different way to think about construction.”
As part of Boldt’s culture of continuous improvement, the design and fabrication team adjusted the STAAT Mod to meet changing needs, Lichtig says. While the original STAAT Mod was built to meet a short-term crisis, such as the overflow of COVID-19 patients, version 2.0 addresses needs beyond that initial crisis and can be used in several clinical applications to supplement a hospital’s inpatient operations, he says.
“The 2.0 version design delivers an improved aesthetic presence on hospital campuses, along with added design sets for customization to your specific context,” Lichtig says.