What does a sustainable hospital look like? A closer look at the Forest of Dean Community Hospital
Last year we brought you ‘How to build a hospital in eight steps‘ and as a follow up, we’re taking a closer look at the Forest of Dean Community Hospital and the sustainable approach to its design, build and day-to-day operation now that we’re over half way through the project.
When we think of sustainability, the concept can be somewhat vague – perhaps images of ‘green initiatives’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ practices coming to mind. But what do these really mean? And how do you apply ‘being green’ to building a hospital?
Due to complete in 2024, the Forest of Dean Community Hospital, located in Cinderford, serves as a prime example of sustainable healthcare. Commissioned by Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust and delivered by contractor Speller Metcalfe, it has been designed to achieve the sustainable BREEAM Excellent certification and showcases various features that make it a model of sustainability and environmental best practice.
‘A nice thick jumper’
At the heart of the hospital’s sustainable design lies a focus on energy efficiency. The building features extremely thick, 250mm insulation in its walls and roof – essentially enveloping the hospital in a nice thick jumper, which significantly reduces the energy needed for heating and cooling. Compared to a typical new build home which may have 100mm insulation, this is extremely energy efficient.
Moreover, in 2021 the government announced a pledge to ensure that Britain’s homes, services and businesses are powered by affordable, clean and secure electricity by 2035 – a commitment to ultimately decarbonise the UK’s electricity system. The Forest of Dean Community Hospital relies solely on electricity (i.e., no gas or fossil fuels), and uses alternative air source heat pumps, mechanical ventilation recovery systems and on-site renewable energy sources to offset its energy consumption.
In fact, the hospital will be a net contributor of electricity to the national grid, so its carbon footprint will decline over time, which could lead it to achieve net zero in the future.
Overcoming challenges of redevelopment
A testament to sustainable redevelopment, the scheme has been built on what was historically a coal mine and a post-industrial site. The construction team faced the challenge of investigating the location of coal seams and mine shafts, undertaking extensive probing and remediation strategies to ensure the safety of the site prior to laying the foundations – ultimately transforming a site with complex requirements into a sustainable, community asset.
Achieving BREEAM Excellent
Prior to construction Speller Metcalfe, Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Trust and our wider project stakeholders worked together to explore areas of carbon reduction and focusing on the building’s lifecycle, with a target of achieving a BREEAM Excellent certification.
BREEAM is a sustainability assessment method that sets standards for the environmental performance of buildings and infrastructure. It takes account of a wide range of factors, including energy, water, health and wellbeing, transport, materials and waste.
The team is committed to identifying materials that meet the green credentials of the BREEAM assessment. This uses a ‘cradle to grave’ approach which considers the raw materials, their manufacturing processes, embodied carbon and ease of recycling. The Forest of Dean team has achieved the maximum score for the material section of the assessment.
Preserving ecology and biodiversity
The project demonstrates a commitment to both preserving and enhancing local ecology and biodiversity. Extensive consideration has been given to the surrounding wildlife, such as dormice and bats, to ensure the hospital does not encroach onto their existing habitats. As an example, prior to construction the team was on site overnight to carry out light level surveys to understand how the design would impact on the bats’ flight path, and are now installing dimmable night-time lighting at the hospital entrance.
Additionally, the hospital incorporates bat, bird and dormouse boxes throughout the site, while also committing to planting of significantly more plants and trees than were previously in situ, which will ultimately enhance its biodiversity by over 10 per cent.
Efficient operations and connection to nature
Efficiency plays a vital role in the sustainable operation of the hospital, but not just in terms of energy. The layout has been designed that corridors were minimised to reduce staff walking distances, and as a result maximising their day-to-day efficiency. Additionally, a crucial aspect of the design has focused on the connection to nature, so all 24 in-patient rooms have a view directly out to the forest or the surrounding environment. The therapeutic benefits of connecting patients with nature are well-documented, and this deliberate design choice aims to positively impact patient recovery rates and overall well-being.
Integration with the community
The Trust recognises the importance of community integration as part of its sustainability strategy, both in the way that it serves the local area and how it employs local people and procures local goods and services.
For example, an analysis was done of the Forest of Dean area, calculating the commute times and carbon footprint of different journeys. Another example being that over 70 per cent of the supply chain for the hospital build has been procured from within 30 miles of the site, and many from the Forest of Dean itself.
The Speller Metcalfe team was also recently awarded its first ever 100% score through the Considerate Constructors Scheme – an independent organisation that audits construction sites and focuses on: ‘Respecting the community, caring for the environment and valuing the workforce.’
Throughout the construction, the site team has made efforts to engage with the community, held educational events and promoted a sense of ownership among local residents. The NHS intends to continue this approach, whether that’s through volunteer involvement in the grounds and gardens, art projects or community use of meeting spaces within the hospital.