As well as delivering clinical excellence, the hospital is designed to encourage wellbeing by acknowledging the importance of natural light and outdoor space, with the slim-framed VELFAC system used to maximise daylight and to enhance views of surrounding gardens. The hospital is also a major achievement for BDP’s main client Laing O’Rourke, working for the Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, which delivered the hospital to a very tight timescale by completing much of the build using pre-cast load-bearing panels – with windows already installed - made at Laing O’Rourke’s own factory.
‘Ambitious and inspirational’
Challenging conventional hospital design, Alder Hey uses a hand-shaped floorplan (inspired by consultations with children) featuring a central hub connecting three long ‘fingers’ (each topped with a green roof sloping down to ground level) interspersed with gardens and courtyards. The hospital is designed to treat over 275,000 children a year and houses six wards, a large critical care unit, 16 theatres and a host of clinical services, together with shops, cafes and other spaces arranged along an internal street.
The brief for Alder Hey was ‘ambitious and aspirational’, comments BDP project architect director Ged Couser, and emphasised ‘greenery’ and ‘views’ within a ‘therapeutic and innovative’ context. When it came to selecting windows for the project, the VELFAC system was an early choice, specified ‘because it is a high quality product, and because of the composite frame,’ comments Ged. The glazing is installed across the hospital and in a number of configurations including striking ribbon runs, glazed inset walls leading to terraces, and within ‘jewels’ – large cantilevered bays clad in boldly coloured rainscreen panels used to punctuate exterior facades.
Durability and warmth
The composite frame delivers durability and meets the design brief. Externally, aluminium framing is finished in dark grey, contrasting with red sandstone coloured concrete walls, green roofs framed with a silver parapet coping, and the multi-coloured bay windows. ‘The inner pine frame was used to add warmth to the interior, especially the bedrooms,’ adds Ged, ‘and the slim fame construction was also vital. We wanted to give every habitable room a view of the surrounding parks and gardens, and the VELFAC frame design maximised this view while also increasing levels of natural light.’ Energy efficiency was also essential, given the Trust’s ambition that Alder Hey should be the ‘most sustainable major acute hospital in the UK’. The excellent U-values delivered by VELFAC standard double-glazed units guaranteed impressive insulation across the hospital, and made an important contribution to the BREEAM Excellent rating awarded to the build.
Innovative off-site construction
It was also important that VELFAC could meet the demands of the innovative off-site construction methods employed by Laing O’Rourke, and having worked with the company on other similar projects, the VELFAC technical team was well prepared to meet the challenge. Closely involved from the outset of the project, VELFAC liaised closely with Laing O’Rourke and BDP to ensure window manufacture and delivery met the production schedule in place at Laing O’Rourke’s factory.
Alder Hey formally opened in October 2015, five years after the Trust initially floated the idea for a ‘hospital’ in the park’. The project is a major achievement for all involved, providing Liverpool with an iconic architectural landmark and a building which, says BDP, uniquely represents the ‘latest thinking’ in hospital design.
Clients: Laing O’Rourke / Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
- Quality of design and manufacture
- Slim frames – maximum daylight and maximum view
- Energy efficiency
- Design versatility
- Internal timber frame