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Important factors to consider before embarking on a radiation shielding project

por Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | October 19, 2020
MarShield's Nanotek
From the October 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

When most people think about radiation therapy or imaging facilities, the capital equipment inside is probably one of the first things that pop to mind. The shield, which contains the radiation, is out of sight and quite possibly out of mind. HealthCare Business News spoke to shielding experts, who say the design planning for a new center needs to prioritize shield considerations in order to prevent expensive problems down the line.

“When the process considers the shielding as a detail that can be handled later in the design phase, there usually isn't the focus or understanding of what the shielding requirements could entail,” said Rick LeBlanc, president and CEO of NELCO Worldwide. “Shielding solutions can be at times costly and require significant space and structural considerations.”

Rick LeBlanc
The shielding requirements for cancer treatment radiotherapy facilities can be particularly extensive with some walls and/or ceilings requiring up to eight feet of shielding. Door systems could weigh up to 30,000 pounds, and final shielding systems for a single room can exceed 1.5 million pounds.

“I think they could achieve the same goal and save a lot of money if [shielding] is thought about right in the first planning phases, even when selecting a facility,” said Bryan Bordeman, operations manager at Global Partners in Shielding.

Using the example of two buildings that cost the same amount, one with built-in foundational walls made of 12-inch thick concrete and the other with a glass facade, Bordeman explained that it’s going to cost a lot more to shield the latter.

The first mistake that many facilities run into when designing radiation shielding is not reaching out to shielding experts from the get-go, according to Paul Rochus, business development executive at MarShield Radiation Shielding.

“By involving a radiation shielding expert in the design phase, you can be introduced to new shielding products or be warned about common design flaws in a particular shielding design,” he said.

Selecting a contractor that has experience with these types of projects is also important, added Bordeman, who cautioned against choosing the cheapest contractor over the one who can provide the best value — a mistake he’s seen facilities make.

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