Using Facades to Create Better Healthcare Buildings


In October 2020, the UK Government announced funding for 40 new hospitals, with other projects invited to bid for future funding, bringing the total to 48 new hospitals by 2030. Here, we look at how the design and specification of facade systems can help architects designing hospitals and other healthcare facilities satisfy all the patients, staff and wider building requirements.

The healthcare sector has to meet a wide range of objectives. These include supporting the health and wellbeing of patients and enabling the work of staff. The facilities must also meet the same requirements as any other building, especially those in the public sector, of minimising the environmental impact, both at construction and throughout its lifespan.

Supporting patient health

For hospitals and healthcare facilities making innovative use of glass and glazed façade systems can make a significant difference to patients. The benefits of increased natural light levels are now well established. A body of scientific evidence has shown that patients who are exposed to greater levels of natural light spend less time in hospital, experience lower levels of stress and require less pain management. Some research has also suggested that mortality rates could be lower where patients stay in rooms with more natural light. Furthermore, the role of daylight in supporting circadian rhythms – the natural sleep/wake cycle – is well understood. Maintaining this natural process is especially important for patients recovering from illness, injury or surgery.

In addition, as healthcare facilities are also workplaces, an increased level of daylight within the building is just as important for the health and happiness of those working there. Good lighting in the workplace has been shown to improve mental health, reduce sickness and lower stress.

Increasing the number of glazed areas and windows is also linked to another key factor in patient recovery – a connection to the outside world. Similar to increased levels of natural light, the positive medical effects of simply having a view of the natural environment has long been realised. More than 35 years ago, architecture professor Dr Roger Ulrich demonstrated the effects of patients having a view of a green space in a now commonly referenced study. The research found that patients who could see a tree covered area from their room required less time in hospital after surgery, needed less pain relief and had fewer post-surgical complications. These findings have since been supported by a succession of studies. This concept of maximising the connection to nature has influenced the design of many modern hospitals, with the floorplan, placement of windows and the design for the land surrounding the hospital all focused on delivering views of nature to as many rooms as possible.

More sustainable material selections

With environmental issues such as waste from construction, natural resource depletion and the carbon footprint of the built environment now more important than ever it is essential for major projects, especially those in the public sector to lead the way. A key element of this is working with the supply chain to ensure building products and systems are responsibly manufactured from sustainably sourced materials.

While there continues to be significant and important investment in developing new sustainable materials there are existing options, such as aluminium, that when sourced correctly can help lower the embodied carbon of a building and reduce waste. Aluminium is easy to recover from construction waste and is endlessly recyclable with no loss of quality. In addition, products that use recycled aluminium have lower embodied carbon as melting it down for reuse requires only around 5% of the energy needed for primary aluminium production. For example, at TECHNAL we have a growing range of façade systems manufactured from Hydro CIRCAL 75R. This is prime quality aluminium made with a minimum of 75% recycled end-of-life aluminium such as doors, windows and façade components that have been removed from buildings.


Improving building performance

The energy efficiency of any new building is a key factor in reducing environmental impact, however with funding under pressure in healthcare, reducing the ongoing costs of operating the building is essential. Choosing façade systems that have been designed to achieve high levels of thermal performance can make a significant contribution to lowering energy usage. As an example, our GEODE MX 52 curtain walling systems feature a thermal break to minimise heat loss and have been designed to integrate high performance glazing to further improve the thermal efficiency. Similarly, our Stormframe STII Commercial Door, which is ideal for high traffic environments such as hospitals, offers high levels of thermal insulation and achieves a U value as low as 1.8W/m2. It also complies with Approved Document M and BS8300 when supplied with the adjustable power door closers and compliant hardware.

Case Study: Chesterfield Royal Hospital

The Chesterfield Royal Hospital Acute Ward building provides state-of-the-art facilities and a high-quality healing environment in three 32-bed wards. It features extensive use of our GEODE MX 52 Visible Grid curtain wall system to flood the wards with natural light. Each of the window glazing units is 1.2m by 2.4m with a fixed pane and concealed top-hung vent above. The GEODE MX Curtain Walling system was also used for the full height glazing on two stairwells and for the area around the nurses stations on each floor. The curtain walling was glazed using low E high-performance solar control glass. Our high-traffic CD Commercial Doors were also utilised for the entrances and exits. Following its completion, the building was used to gather further evidence of the positive impact of good design on patients.

Healthcare sector projects must meet a wide range of objectives as well as provide an environment that supports patient recovery and helps staff to be more effective. The innovative use of high quality façade systems can allow more natural light into the building and enable a connection to the outside world – both essential for patient wellbeing. By choosing the right system architects can also ensure requirements such as sustainability targets are met.

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