A Trade Magazine for Northern Ireland's Building & Design Professionals
Inpatient Ward Block, Ulster Hospital, Belfast
A modern take on healthcare that combines the practicalities of infection control and privacy with striking aesthetics…
The design and construction of the new Inpatient Ward Block at the Ulster Hospital is the embodiment of modern healthcare facilities that combine strong, striking aesthetics with practicality and flexibility.
The new six-storey building includes 12 in-patient wards comprising 288 single bedrooms, each with their own en suite bathroom; a day surgery department that incorporates four state-of-the-art theatres and an endoscopy suite; as well as support services including a new pharmacy department and a café.
Set to replace the current in-patient block that was built in the 1960s, the new landmark building provides patients and staff with fit-for-purpose, modern facilities in which to provide exemplary care.
The result of another successful collaboration between Avanti Architects and Kennedy Fitzgerald Architects, the £85million project was completed by another successful alliance – main contractor, the GRAHAM-BAM Partnership – and forms an integral part of an overall masterplan for the site.
Strong partnerships clearly played a part in the overall success of the project and are one of the main reasons why the original concept for this striking new building was retained.
“In the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust we had a very enlightened client that bought into our ideas right from the start,” explained Andrew McKeown, Associate Director at Avanti Architects. “As a project moves forward, it can be very easy for the original design concepts to get watered down, but that wasn’t the case here.”
Working in a tightly constrained site, the scale of the requirements for the new facility set against the space restrictions provided the first challenge and necessitated the six-storey high concept.
From there, the focus shifted to balancing the overall aesthetics of the building with the practical aspects of a ward.
“The design concept was driven forward together with the Trust,” Andrew explained. “One of the key features of the design was access to natural light, knowing the benefits that this brings to the patient and working environments. We wanted the exterior of the ward block to have a distinct design, yet one that remained sympathetic to the rest of the site. The ward accommodation is expressed through the large areas of curtain wall with either transparent glazing or back coloured glass spandrel panels. This extensive use of glass unifies the curtain wall areas so that it appears as a seamless glazed surface within a light ceramic tiled rainscreen frame.”
The four storeys of patient wards are wrapped around a central courtyard that enables the natural light concept to be retained for facilities in the centre of the building.
Internally, patients not only enjoy great views but are also offered higher levels of privacy than the open ward concept so familiar in hospitals across the UK. In addition to this, the single room concept also creates higher levels of infection control.
The design and construction team worked closely with clinicians to decide on the finer detail of each room. A fully equipped and functional mock-up of the room was even constructed to give staff and service users the opportunity to review the plans and test the room prior to final decisions being made.
Once again, this highlights not only the attention to detail by the team, but is also another example of the strong partnership ethos throughout the project.
The new Inpatient Ward Block has set high standards. Work is already well underway on the next phase of the Ulster Hospital Masterplan with the construction of the neighbouring £95million Acute Services Block, which is due to be completed in Autumn 2019. This project is also being carried out by the same architect and building contractor collaboration.
Andrew added, “The client teams from the Trust and GRAHAM-BAM really were first class and that relationship remains strong on the Acute Services Block, which is another exciting project. We are also delighted to be continuing our strong partnership with Kennedy Fitzgerald Architects, that has been in place since 2000 and has resulted in a number of award-winning healthcare projects.
“These partnerships are helping us change the face of healthcare in Northern Ireland and we are proud to be a part of that.”