Bristol Royal Infirmary – Queen’s Building refurb nears completion
Like many hospitals of its generation, the Bristol Royal Infirmary building on Upper Maudlin Street had been subject to ongoing internal refurbishment and upgrade whilst retaining the original facade. Over time, the facade’s concrete elements had deteriorated necessitating remedial structural works to make safe. University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust also recognised that the external appearance of the Bristol Royal Infirmary did not reflect the quality of care provided within.
“When I understood just what we had to do to the facade to make it safe long-term, in terms of windows and efficiencies of the building, it became apparent that for relatively little additional cost we could start improving the appearance,” said Deborah Lee, Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Executive.
When the appearance of the building was discussed with patients and visitors they told her it gave the impression that the hospital was dirty.
To address both deficiencies, the Trust held an international design competition, the winning design being named “Veil” by Spanish architects Nieto Sobejano Architectos, who subsequently worked closely on design development with CODA Architects, the local architectural practice responsible for redevelopment projects on the Bristol Royal Infirmary precinct.
Robert Woolley, Chief Executive at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“We believe that Nieto Sobejano’s design strongly meets the original aims of the commission, namely to create a landmark building for Bristol that is welcoming and non-threatening, enhances the streetscape and public realm and reflects, through excellence in design, our reputation for excellence in clinical services.”
The new facade had to meet the architect’s aesthetic intent whilst also meeting the technical requirements of the project. Andy Headdon, Strategic Development Programme Director at the Trust, said of the existing building: “At the moment, the concrete has some problems. We are tidying it up and making sure it is safe. The new system will protect the structure underneath so it will not deteriorate, and there will be better natural ventilation in the hospital when the windows are open.”
In addition, overcladding would extend the useful life of the building and provide a thermally-efficient building envelope while substantially reducing heating energy consumption, operational carbon emissions and internally improving patient comfort levels.
Following a two-stage procurement process, leading design and build overcladding specialists d+b facades, Salisbury, were appointed for detailed design and installation of the new polyester powder coated insulated aluminium rainscreen, high-performance windows and a free-standing overclad screen in front of the building interfacing back to the main facade.
The project was technically challenging, not only because the existing facade comprised an irregular array of projecting concrete nibs but the building was occupied throughout requiring sophisticated project delivery in order to minimise disruption to patients, clinical services and other building users. Non-uniformity of the facade precluded modular design, instead requiring bespoke solutions installed floor-by-floor with the projecting nibs being encased. Integrated within the rainscreen are vertical full-height LED lighting strips with phased operation.
The 500 tilt-and-turn windows presented further challenges as the architectural design demanded that the white façade should appear to have no distinguishing windows. d+b facades’ innovative solution was to apply film to the windows to preserve the consistent appearance but minimise opacity when viewed from inside. Replacement windows were installed from the outside before removing the existing windows from within in order to minimise disruption. Linda Clarke, Divisional Lead for Therapies for the Trust’s Surgery, Head & Neck Division commented: “The team from d+b facades have been amazing. The quality of the work is extremely high and they have been extremely quick. Communication has been great and they have worked with us so as not to disrupt the service to our patients.”
Through high-quality sustainable refurbishment of the Bristol Royal Infirmary, the Trust has set a magnificent example to other NHS Trusts. The Queen’s building has undergone continual internal modernisation and now has a striking new, energy-efficient façade which reflects the quality of services provided within. The new façade is designed to surpass current building standards and protect the original building’s fabric, future-proofing and extending the life of building for generations to come, exemplifying sustainable regeneration.
Furthermore, appearances DO matter and improved aesthetics can translate into tangible financial benefit for NHS Trusts. Trusts are businesses with patients generating revenue. If transforming a hospital increased patient numbers by less than 0.1%, the refurbishment cost would pay for itself.