Next time you go to the hospital, you might want to pack a hardhat. According to U.S. Census data, construction spending at hospitals increased to nearly $14 billion in 2003, which is up 10.7% from the previous year. Across the nation, hospitals are undergoing major expansion or renovation projects to compensate for technological advances, a growing population, increased use, and aging facilities. Some observers say that hospital-related construction may be at an all-time high.

“Not only is it hot now, it will be hot for a long period of time, with aging baby boomers and new technology advances coming,” Tim Hess, director of pre-construction services for Hensel Phelps Construction recently told the Houston Chronicle. Facilities are enlarging emergency rooms, building cancer centers, redecorating lobbies, and building patient towers. Nowhere is this trend more prevalent than in Texas, where many hospitals, primarily in Houston, are in the midst of million-dollar renovation projects. For example, Memorial Hermann Healthcare System is in the middle of a five-year, $420 million program to expand all nine of its acute-care hospitals. The Woodlands is one of those facilities; it's doubling in size to accommodate admissions and births, which have nearly tripled since the hospital opened in 1989. St. Luke's is planning to replace its 50-year-old original hospital with a 10-story patient care center to be opened in 2008, which will feature robotic technology to pick up food carts and dirty linens.