CoStruc cart and drawers comments by Paul Propst, son of Robert Propst

The rolling cart with the bright colored drawers appears to be the perfect place to store the cheerful toys of a child, however, what is pictured are CoStruc components, a few pieces of a larger system of containers that serve a far more serious function.  Hospitals use this system of containers to maintain a useful and clean environment as a way to improve the health of both their patients and employees.  CoStruc is a product offered by Herman Miller Inc, which is one of West Michigan’s innovative furniture companies.

The story of CoStruc begins in the 1960’s when Robert Propst required a bit of surgery and spent several days in a hospital.  The operation was a success, but a few days later a staff infection appeared on his arm.  To cure this, Robert was confined to bed for many weeks with his arm held over his head dripping with medication.  He quickly came to hate this routine, and began asking how he had ended up like this.  Doctors could not say exactly where Robert had become infected but admitted that hospitals were prime breeding areas for staff infections.  The problem was in the cleaning of the rooms and most critically the furnishing in the room, all of it wood or metal nightstands and cabinets like those used in homes and business offices.  None of these items could be practically and successfully disinfected.

Robert Propst was an inventor, and at this time directed Herman Miller Research Division.  As he sat in bed, he began to think of a solution to this cleaning problem.  CoSturc was his solution, and the name stands for coherent structures.  Coherent refers to the way all the separate pieces agree to adhere to the rules of the system.  Structures refers to the way the separate pieces can come together in a large variety of way to create all the cabinet needs of the hospital.

Here are just a few of the rules of the system.  Each piece of CoStruc can be easily and quickly removed from its current structure using just your hands and no tools.  No great amount of training or strength is required to separate the pieces.  Once the pieces are separated, all the pieces can be washed and disinfected using manual or automatic washing techniques.  No piece has a sharp corner, crack, or cranny that is hard to clean.  Once clean, pieces can be reassembled as easily as they can apart, and a large variety of complex structures can be composed to fit the patients’ and hospitals’ unique needs.

Robert Propst died in 2000, but he would be pleased to know that CoSturc is still available and in use in hospitals where a cleaner place is a safer place.