The Open University is a partner in a new research project to design and deliver hospital environments that respond to our changing climate. The NHS, which manages more than 14,000 sites, is facing a particular challenge. It needs to protect patients, carers and visitors from excess temperatures, but standard mechanical ventilation solutions or air conditioning can mean increased energy use and carbon emissions.
The research team will work with four NHS Hospital Trusts to establish the resilience of existing buildings and the critical spaces within them in the light of current and future weather data for different geographical locations. The team will consider issues such as the effect of elevated temperatures on patient recovery; infection control; staff working conditions; and the impacts of extreme climate events on the operation of the Trust sites. They will develop detailed low energy design strategies for representative existing building types and will produce a catalogue of viable options which can be applied to buildings across the NHS Estate.
Dr Claudia Eckert, Senior Lecturer in Design at The Open University, said: “It is very important that patients are not affected more than necessary by refurbishment. With the tight budgets of the NHS, the proposed changes should not have unexpected effects on the Trusts’ buildings or patient care.”
Alan Short, Principal Investigator and Professor of Architecture at the University of Cambridge, said: “The project will investigate economical and practical strategies for the NHS to adapt its existing buildings and increase their resilience to climate change, whilst also meeting its challenging climate change goals.”
Professor Kevin Lomas, Professor of Building Simulation at Loughborough University, continued: “The NHS can’t simply raise its comfort temperature thresholds a little in summer and suspend the use of mechanical cooling, as to do so may compromise the wellbeing and safety of patients.”
The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as part of the ‘Adaptation and Resilience in a Changing Climate’ programme, with additional support from the Department of Health and NHS Trusts. The project is led by Professor Alan Short. It is a partnership of the Department of Architecture at Cambridge University, the Design Group at The Open University, the Department of Civil and Building Engineering at Loughborough University, the Engineering Design Centre at Cambridge University and the Pathogen Control Engineering Research Group at Leeds University.
· The NHS Estate comprises more than 14,000 buildings. The NHS comes into contact with more than one million patients, carers and visitors every 36 hours and employs 1.3 million staff or 5% of the UK workforce.
· The project will develop processes to make the integration of innovative, low energy interventions into hospital refurbishment projects smoother and more familiar to those who will be delivering them. It will produce guidance and worked examples in text and web form, as well as a DVD film.