Thursday24 July 2014

Evelina feels the heat

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Sustainability blow as flagship low-energy hospital recalls design team amid legal threats

A flagship low-energy hospital by Hopkins Architects is set to undergo major alterations including extra artificial cooling after NHS bosses revealed it was facing “long-term” overheating problems, which could lead to legal action against the design team.

In an exclusive interview with BD, head of capital development at Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust Alistair Gourlay revealed he planned to recall the project team behind the 2006 Stirling Prize-nominated Evelina Children’s Hospital after patients complained of sweltering temperatures of up to 32°C this summer (News July 28).

In a blow to those lobbying for a new generation of innovative and sustainable hospitals, Gourlay admitted the £60 million building, which is part naturally ventilated and features a dramatic four-storey glass atrium, would probably require an increase in its power supply, and issued a threat of possible legal action.

“If, in all this analysis, we discover there is inefficiency in the design, we will want to hold people accountable for that,” he said. But Hopkins managing director Bill Taylor insisted the design was not at fault, arguing that NHS temperature standards used by the project team were inadequate to deal with an “exceptionally” hot summer.

Gourlay said the building, which features full air-conditioning in key locations such as operating theatres but only mechanical ventilation in functional areas, had overheated as a result of a series of very hot days and nights which had not allowed the building to cool as it was expected to.

He declined to give details of an independent report into the problem by engineer Hulley & Kirkwood, but said it had advised engaging the original team including Hopkins, contractor MJ Gleeson and mechanical engineer Hoare Lea & Partners.

“We recognised in the long-term that we would need to do something more [than the short-term measures taken this summer],” he said.

“My gut feeling is that we’re going to have to add cooling. The question is to what level and how we do that without disrupting the work of the hospital. We have pretty much concluded that there will be some modification to the air plant unit on the roof.”

Gourlay added that he was optimistic there will be good co-operation with the team which will solve the problem by May next year, and called the Evelina a “great” building.

“If we had played safe, we would have had another boring hospital,” he said. “We all need to encourage hospitals to take greater risks.”

Taylor said the Evelina, which caused financial problems for contractor Gleeson at the time of building, was one of a large number of buildings affected by overheating during the summer, and defended the atrium design.

“Temperatures went up to 36°C and by any standards that’s exceptional,” he said. “The hospital was designed to certain [NHS] standards with respect to the prevalent temperatures... what happened unfortunately last summer was that the ambient temperatures were much higher than the standards applicable to the hospital building.”

“The atrium did not overheat in the way that some wards did. Everyone is now working together [on the problem]. There is no hostility and we are getting on with it.”

Stirling Prize jury member and landscape architect Martha Schwartz said she feared some would use the overheating problem as an excuse to promote “dull” PFI hospitals. “We all thought it was a wonderful building,” she added.


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