Carbon reduction in the NHS: Study to explore how healthcare buildings can respond to climate change

HOW hospital buildings react to climate change is forming part of a multi-million pound landmark design and engineering study being led by Cambridge University.

The Design and Delivery of Robust Hospital Environments in a Changing Climate (De2RHECC) project involves a number of NHS trusts across the country and will investigate new economical and practical strategies to help healthcare organisations increase their resilience to climate change while at the same time meeting the stringent carbon reduction targets being introduced over the next decade.

And the scheme’s findings could have far-reaching national and international significance, according to Ian Hinitt, deputy director of estates at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which is involved in the study. Others taking part include West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

Hinitt told BBH: “The research is taking place over three years and will assist the international healthcare community to adapt and redesign hospital buildings to better withstand the world’s changing climate.

“Bradford is exceptional as both the Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Lukes Hospital sites have seen continuous development and expansion since the 1930s. Our buildings cover every kind of architecture and design decade over that period, so all the theories can be tested on one site – making us ideal participants as researchers can examine the impact of climate change on our buildings.

“We expect the findings will be of utmost importance to architects across the UK and indeed further afield. This type and length of study has never been carried out before and it could have huge ramifications for those tasked with designing new buildings in the future.”

Data from the estate’s weather station is being reported back to Cambridge on a daily basis and sensors measuring temperature, daylight and humidity situated on the wards and throughout the trust are being monitored and downloaded frequently. The data is allowing a comprehensive understanding of how the buildings perform now. Their performance in the future is also being modelled, and possible refurbishment strategies will be designed aimed at reducing energy use and saving money while also being resilient to extremes of hot and cold weather.

A film about the project is also due to be made in Bradford in April.

This type and length of study has never been carried out before and it could have huge ramifications for those tasked with designing new buildings in the future

Hinitt said: “This project will assist detailed site redevelopment strategies to be devised and the potential barriers to their implementation considered along with our other business objectives.”

The study is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council with support from the Department of Health.