A Healthy Takeoff

By Stan Shook | Oct 15, 2011




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I recently spent a lot of time with a family member in a hospital. Not to worry. Everyone is fine, but while waiting for doctors and nurses to tell me what was going on, I couldn’t help but check out all the electrical installations that I’ve estimated so many times. I know. I’m sick. I can’t help myself—I’m an estimator.

Ground-fault circuit interrupters- (GFCIs) at the sink, an emergency duplex on this wall, one on that wall; lighting switches I shouldn’t play with. An exam light. I had to ask who furnished it? Who installed it? How did it get into the room? Did it have to be assembled? Which one of those switches turns it on? Is there a control panel? Where is it?

A medical “boom” stood in the corner of a room. It, too, had outlets and switches. Who installed this boom, the outlets and switches? Who furnished them? What about their wiring?

I was also in and out of various other rooms: labs, the pharmacy, CT scan, X-ray, waiting areas and administration offices, corridors, and, of course, the cafeteria. Each area had different layouts and installations, which is why it is important for estimators to understand what each room in a hospital has and how it is wired.

Looking through walls and floors
X-ray, MRI and CT scan rooms are complex and often have control rooms. You need to know the complete scope of these areas. Never assume everything is shown on the electrical drawings. They usually have their own specific drawings, often by the equipment manufacturers and “boiler-plate” type. They most likely won’t match the job floor plans. But you had better bet your company will have to furnish and install the wall and floor duct and the other stuff they show. Also don’t forget wall and floor duct have a purpose: running cables. Who will furnish and install these cables?

Surgery is a serious matter
Operating rooms can add up to a lot of material and labor, especially if there are 10 of them. They can have many devices, special lighting, and low-voltage systems and often require a bit of amperage. Some even have their own subpanel, which requires a feeder.

Operating rooms also have many interconnecting devices and control panels. Examination lights may have two controllers on opposite walls. Who is responsible for these connections? Do they require conduit?

Who installs the cables?
Hospitals also keep track of time in different ways. What is the clock system? Elapsed? Wireless? Is there a wall controller? Who furnishes it? Who installs it? Is conduit required?
Is your hospital a full-service design?

If your hospital is 100-percent designed, you likely won’t have too many questions. All the circuitry, conduit sizes, cable types, scope notes, etc., may be laid out for you. All you have to do is get it counted, rolled off and entered into your database.

However, if the plans are an incomplete design development or construction document, you may have some questions, and you better answer them fast. Hospitals are usually designed to very high standards and are often mandated by the National Electrical Code (NEC) and other codes, especially federal and state codes, such as the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSPHD) in California. Often, these governing agencies dictate a lot of what you can and can’t do, as well as what you must do.

So read the specs and the codes thoroughly. You must know every requirement, every material type and installation method to be used.

Is a patient room a patient room?
Along with a certain amount of repetition occurring in office areas, labs, surgery and X-ray rooms, patient rooms usually provide the most repetition. Entire floors and wings may be duplicated. Look for these timesaving opportunities. If you take them off accurately, you could save yourself a great deal of estimating time.

Estimating typicals is always a bit dangerous, especially on a hospital. Ensure you have the counts right and you have set your estimating program up to multiply them correctly. You do not want to leave out 45 patient rooms or nine surgery rooms. That would be very bad.

And never assume all patient rooms are the same. They often have minor (and sometimes major) differences such as “no headwall” or “with a headwall and a bed locator.” Some rooms are isolation-type and may have additional heating, ventilating and air conditioning equipment; some are dual-bed (that could be two headwalls and two bed locators). All of these factors also affect your low-voltage installations.

Don’t check out in a hurry
Estimating a hospital shouldn’t make you sick. Ensure you give yourself plenty of time to estimate it. My experience has been that it takes an average of three hours per drawing in your set. So if you have 100 E-sheets, you could be looking at 300 hours of takeoff. Really!

Ask a lot of questions, and ensure you find the answers because, on bid day, if your estimate (or your estimator) is not 100 percent healthy when you release your final bid price, your company just might find itself a bit sick—a year or so after the job is built.

SHOOK has been estimating for more than 23 years. Until recently, he operated a fully staffed estimating company, TakeOff 16 Inc. He is currently focusing on writing, teaching and speaking about electrical estimating. Read his blog at or contact him directly at [email protected].

About The Author

Stan Shook was ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR's estimating columnist from 2005 to 2012. He works as an electrical estimator in California. Read his blog at or contact him directly [email protected]

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