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News - September 2019

Staff at the heart of new office design

Staff at the heart of new office design

Patients are rightly at the heart of all healthcare design projects. But there is a growing realisation that buildings must also support the staff who work in them, day in, day out.

And a recently-completed project at Hull Royal Infirmary is evidence of this welcome new approach.

Suite 36 is a second-floor office development providing space for a plethora of health and wellbeing services, including Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council, social workers, Humber mental health team, corporate nursing, patient experience staff, and a call centre for patient referrals.

This wide mix of stakeholders meant one design would not suit all, and so the project has been built around defining spaces and building in future flexibility.

Improving efficiency

Speaking to BBH architect, Alessandro Caruso of ACA, explains: “Suite 36 was part of Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s estate rationalisation programme, with the aim of improving efficiency and enhancing work environments for clinical teams.

“As trust staff spend most of their time indoors, the initial brief was to create a working environment with high specification which is accessible, sustainable, and stimulating for staff to enjoy and feel proud to work in.”

Created in conjunction with Zenith Development Group, the 900sq m largely-open-plan space provides 120 workstations, including video conferencing facilities, meeting rooms, and associated accommodation.

Caruso made use of design principals contained in WELL Building Standards​, which favour a simple layout with efficient circulation spaces, aesthetically-appealing interiors, and motivating environments that holistically support health and wellbeing.

For example, elements of biophilic design were used, including a ‘living wall’.

And, while this feature looks appealing for office users; there is also a much-deeper reason for including it in the space, with s​tudies showing that adding biophilic elements to offices can increase productivity and reduce sickness rates - a key problem for the NHS.

In a similar vein, artwork and graphics which help to further define spaces were very carefully chosen.

Stakeholder feedback sessions led to a shift away from the traditional choice of local landmarks as the inspiration for integral artworks.

Building an identity

This was due to the presence of mental health teams within the building and the associations between significant local landmarks such as the Humber Bridge and the Humber River and suicide.

Instead, more-generic graphics were used to achieve the feeling that workers are not in a clinical hospital environment.

And, with so many office spaces to incorporate, identity was key.

Caruso explains: “The trust was sensitive about creating an environment that was particularly nice.

“It was about breaking down the space to accommodate different user groups and to acknowledge a need for focused work areas and a place where people could get away from their desks.

“We have considered each area and given it individual characteristics, either by colour of type of seating, for example.

“In this way everyone feels that, despite it being open plan, there is a sense of ownership and identification of the area each person is working in.”

And rooms have been designed to be flexible so if groups expand or contract the space can accommodate this in the future.

As well as concentrating on the offices, recreational space was also integral to the design, with a number of refreshment and break-out spaces.

Energy-saving measures include insulated walls, LED light fittings, self-dimming lighting, waterless urinals and water flow control restrictors in washrooms, the use of standardised products, underfloor power distribution feeds, and water and energy-saving taps.

A healthy environment

Calum Preston of Zenith Developments Group, said: “Healthcare staff deserve spaces in which they can work comfortably and be inspired.

“And, with estate rationalisation a key priority for the NHS, the Suite 36 project embodies the theory behind it.

“Staff now work in modern, functional, high-spec spaces, which are accessible, sustainable and stimulating.”

He added: “The brief solved the problems staff faced before, namely a lack of storage; departments working remotely and individually; dated office environments that were no longer fit for purpose; and non-descript spaces.

“They now enjoy functional, zoned spaces that provide a healthy environment, increasing the wellbeing and productivity of the workforce.”

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