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News archive - January 2016

A new era for children’s healthcare

A new era for children’s healthcare

The new Alder Hey Children’s Health Park is more than just a hospital. The £250m scheme sets a new benchmark for the delivery of modern healthcare. Here, we look more closely at one of the UK’s most-ambitious medical construction projects.

The forward-thinking client project team at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust wanted to create a new paediatric medical facility that was like no other anywhere in the world.

And, having recently opened, the £250m development is already proving a hit with patients, staff and visitors, providing top-quality healthcare services in an environment designed to enhance wellbeing and aid recovery.

Speaking to hdm, Ged Couser of BDP Architects, who was the project director, said: “From the very beginning this was going to be a hospital like no other. The trust did not want just another children’s hospital. They wanted an entirely new concept of a healing environment for sick children.”

And so the Children’s Health Park was born.

Blurring the lines

Designed around colour and transparency, the building has been orientated to make the most out of its heavily-landscaped setting.

“We were so lucky that, unlike the usual constraints we are faced with when designing most of our new buildings, we had an untouched greenfield site on which to build,” said Couser.

“Our London, Manchester and Sheffield offices were involved, led initially by the design director, Benedict Zucchi, so we were able to do something truly extraordinary.”

Covering a floor area of more than 60,000sq m, the new hospital has been sited in such a way that all rooms look out onto the surrounding park, helping to blur the separation between the outside and inside.

“This project has been all about enhancing the patient experience for staff and patients,” said Couser.

“We have used a lot of new systems and approaches, and have commissioned bespoke products, which could now be used to enhance medical facilities worldwide.”

Few hospital developments are lucky enough to have such a beautiful site available, and therefore the design of Alder Hey is unlikely to be widely replicated, particularly in the UK. However, some of the unique building products and systems used during construction have caused excitement within the industry.

For example, Axis Automatic Entrance Systems designed an innovative new sliding door system specifically for the Alder Hey project.

Axis Flo-Motion Doors have integrated blinds for infection control and easy maintenance, and a patented new sliding mechanism includes an ingenious damper, which slows the movement so they can be controlled by young people.

The building envelope also provides a new approach for the sector.

Designed by WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, and installed as part of a civils and structural and buildings services contract led by Laing O’Rourke, around 1,265 precast concrete sandwich panels were used on the perimeter to distribute the loads to the foundations, removing the need for conventional columns.

The panels consisted of an inner 200mm-thick structural loadbearing solid concrete leaf with 100mm rigid thermal insulation and 100mm concrete architectural facing leaf. The inner structural leaf was complete with a finish ready to receive direct decoration, reducing the need for additional cladding.

The largest panels weighed in the region of 25 tonnes, with a geometry of 10.125m length and 3.740m height.

These panels were manufactured off-site, reducing the need for external scaffolding, waste, congestion, dust and labour. Once installed, they also allowed for early access for the mechanical and electrical fitters.

Energy efficient

Speaking to hdm, Malcolm Davidson, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff director, said: “From the outset we explored the optimum technique for the structural frame, based on both cost and efficiency and other influencing factors such as sustainability and design adaptability.

“A precast composite flat slab supported by precast columns on a typical 8.1m x 8.1m grid proved to be the optimum solution. The perimeter façade was integrated with precast concrete load-bearing sandwich panels.

“This system may have been used in isolation previously, but for this to be the main component of such a significant project is unique.”

Using newly-designed concrete columns, precast composite floor slabs, special reinforced concrete shear walls, movement joints, and the new sandwich panels, meant a reduction in the build time and a host of other benefits including low maintenance, a reduction in traditional labour, and improvements in thermal mass and energy efficiency.

Couser said: “The first patients are now in the new hospital, and the feedback we have had is excellent. Everyone really loves the new building and we feel we have produced something which will set a new benchmark for the delivery of paediatric care, both in the UK and overseas.”

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