Earlier this year, the UK government announced that they would spend £2.7 billion on building hospitals. That’s a large amount of money, and very welcome, but we could make the money spent on hospital design and construction go further — about 30% further, in fact. 

Our most recent major healthcare architecture project opened at the beginning of Sept. 2020 in Edgbaston, UK. Circle Rehabilitation is a beautiful building, with some spectacular architectural and engineering features, as well as being a cutting-edge, best-in-class hospital with five operating theaters, 10 first stage recovery beds, 20 second stage recovery beds, 20 hospital bedrooms and 120 bedrooms for rehabilitation patients. It has a comprehensive imaging department and a large physiotherapy capacity for elective care and rehabilitation services.

And yet, it cost 30% less to build than comparable hospitals.

Design to Value — An Integrated Approach to Architecture and Construction

Bryden Wood’s approach is always to apply our integrated design expertise to analyze projects exhaustively, and make sure that we deliver the solution that adds the most value. We question everything, and take nothing for granted, in line with our Design to Value approach. 

Design to Value is well understood and applied in the manufacturing industries. It leads to objective analysis of every aspect of a process, every element of resource requirement, energy consumption, knowledge, and cost. It leads to testing of the value parameters each of these elements is being measured against. It is rigorous, logical and data-driven. Its application in construction is transformational.

Bringing Learning to Every Healthcare Design Project

In addition to bringing fresh eyes and ideas to every project, we also build on the learning that we gather from other projects. Our early work with Circle Reading Hospital provided us with excellent foundations: for that project we conducted extensive research into the use dynamics of a hospital, optimizing the layout to deliver a hospital with a design that allowed a significantly improved experience for both staff and patients. 

Our intention was to develop a set of standard processes and techniques that we would apply to all of our healthcare design projects, while allowing for the specific brief for each facility. Over the years, we have continually refined and improved these common elements to improve the efficiency of production of design information and the quality of the end product, while also delivering certainty of cost and program. 

We brought all of this learning to Birmingham. As at Reading, our primary focus was on the quality of the user experience for patients and staff, as well as the efficiency and usability of the building. 

In 2012 we won the Best Patient Experience Award for Circle Reading at the Building Better healthcare awards.

Hospital Design for Flexibility and Change

We also worked hard to make sure that the design of the hospital was flexible and adaptable. One recurring issue with hospitals is that the technology they house develops at pace and, as we have seen this year, the demands hospitals face can change very quickly. Both of these mean that traditional approaches to hospital design and construction come with obsolescence as standard. 

Our intelligent design, on the other hand, had future-proofing and flexibility built in. We had an early opportunity to prove the value of this, when Circle Health decided to expand vertically and double the size of the hospital during the construction phase. We achieved this with very little disruption. 

Design to Value means rigorously assessing every part of a project using a wide variety of value criteria, which come from the client and from the sector more broadly. Our Platforms approach to Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (P-DfMA) bakes value into the process by bringing the benefits of manufacturing to the design and construction process. This combined approach can be applied to any building type, but we have seen huge benefits when the buildings we design are particularly complex, or house particularly complex systems and processes.

The Benefits of a Platform Approach to Design and Construction: Time, Cost and Quality

A Platforms approach to Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (P-DfMA) delivers significant benefits to a project, including: reduced costs, reduced program time, reduced carbon, reduced numbers of workers required to build, increased health and safety, increased quality, increased flexibility and adaptability. 

And we can deliver all of this with no compromise on the aesthetic quality of the building. The beauty of Circle Birmingham hospital — including the spectacular cantilever we achieved over the main entrance — bears witness to that last point. And this is not simply architectural posturing. We know that the physical environment affects us directly, and it has been shown repeatedly that the patient experience of a beautiful and uplifting hospital environment makes a materially positive difference to clinical outcomes.

Clearly, all of these benefits are critical when healthcare is under such pressure — pressure which shows no signs of abating. When public money is being spent at such a scale, the opportunity to increase benefits across the project, while also making the money go further, is surely one that we should seize.

A Proven Approach

Our approach has been proved to work. There is nothing stopping us from doing this other than inertia and reluctance among some parties to change from traditional methods of design and construction. But as recent events have shown, traditional is not good enough. 

We need new approaches, and smart solutions. Fortunately, we have them.


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