Woodland setting for new mental health unit

Work begins on eating disorders inpatient facility in Sandbanks

The new unit has been designed to maximise views to the external landscape
The new unit has been designed to maximise views to the external landscape

Patients being treated for eating disorders will benefit from a new facility sited within protected woodland and designed to enhance care delivery.

Construction has started on an £8m unit at St Ann’s Hospital in Sandbanks, designed by Medical Architecture for Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust.

Situated in a protected wooded glade, the building has been carefully crafted to preserve the quality of its natural setting and to create a uniquely-private and therapeutic environment for inpatients.

The site is in the grounds of the Grade 2-listed hospital and the size and positioning of the building has been carefully considered to have a low impact on the surrounding mature coastal trees.

And the larger, two-storey element of the building is set back from the boundary and adjoining road, reducing in scale to single storey as it approaches the street frontage.

Views to nature

Inside the unit, bedroom accommodation and patient day spaces are located together on the ground floor, providing eight inpatient beds and two high dependency beds.

The transparent day spaces have views out to an accessible landscaped garden and the surrounding woodland, maximising the therapeutic benefit.

This ward plan, with a central staff base, aids observation and allows efficient staffing levels to be maintained.

Staff and therapy rooms occupy the first floor and a large activity space provides views out across the tree canopy.

Externally, the design uses traditional materials found on the hospital site, such as brick and clay roof tiles, but details them in a contemporary manner, providing a modern and attractive setting for the treatment and care of vulnerable patients.

And, internally, organic materials and neutral colours complement the ever-present views to nature, with large areas of glazing providing natural light to reinforce circadian rhythms and reduce the requirement for internal lighting.

Focused on recovery

The building has been designed to carefully preserve the woodland setting, with an irrigated root-protecting foundation design that lifts the building above the roots and retains the large mature Category A trees.

These have extensive canopies, providing good shade and shelter from extreme future climate effects.

The external landscaping around the building is also permeable and designed to retain as much rainwater on the site as possible. This is to irrigate the existing and newly-planted trees and shrubs while mitigating any local flood risk at times of extremely-high rainfall.

Bob Wills, director at Medical Architecture, said: “Working closely with the trust we have designed a place where patients can recover in an environment conducive to recovery-focused and high-quality care.

“By integrating the building so closely with its natural setting we are able to fully harness the therapeutic quality of this fantastic site.”

Project team

  • Client: Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust
  • Architects: Medical Architecture
  • Contractor: Kier ConstructionServices
  • Engineer: TNG Consulting Engineers
  • Structure and Civil Engineer: Godsell Arnold Partnership
  • Landscape Architects: Hellis Solutions
  • Quantity Surveyor: Gleeds
  • Fire Safety: IFC Group
  • CDM Coordinator: MLM Group
  • Acoustic Engineer: Ian Sharland Limited
  • Project Manager: MMC Project Consulting
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