Hospitals contribute to the improved health of our general population and communities, as facilities for people to go in times of sickness, pain and distress. In the twenty-first century they should also contribute to the improved health of our environment as it undoubtedly impacts our wellbeing too. At DesignInc, we believe sustainable design – achieved through solar design principles and sustainability initiatives – should be at the forefront of any new hospital development and it certainly is at Royal Adelaide Hospital, which has achieved a 5-star Green Star rating.


DesignInc with STH Health Architecture (STH) prepared its bid for Royal Adelaide Hospital in 2009, which officially opened on Sunday 3 September. The Emergency Department opened two days later, and other areas are being transitioned into throughout September 2017. As Premier Jay Weatherill stated at the ceremony: “The new hospital is the crowning achievement in the city’s biomedical precinct and will represent the highest standard of health care for South Australians.”


Royal Adelaide Hospital is South Australia’s greenest hospital. Located on North Terrace adjacent to the Adelaide Park Lands, the hospital’s overarching design story is “a hospital in parkland, with parkland in a hospital,” and its design prioritises views, fresh air, privacy and efficiency, which have all been proven to contribute to faster healing. “We wanted to achieve a state-of-the-art hospital that was very efficient in reducing patient journey times; a hospital that offers connections to art and landscaped courtyards to contribute to healthy minds and bodies; and a hospital with all single-bed patient rooms with ensuites and a day bed for loved ones to spend the night,” says Richard.


Of course any hospital project must first and foremost deliver on its healthcare functions and requirements, and the DesignInc – STH project team achieved this by collaborating closely with stakeholders through a series of weekly user-group meetings, with up to 14 different groups. “We spent numerous days each week with user-group meetings,” Richard Does, Director at DesignInc explains. “We updated sketch designs accordingly for stakeholder reviews and the process continued through to construction documentation phase for each department.”


The focus on efficiency and patient wellbeing is realised throughout the design of the hospital, and centres on the concept of “a journey to health.” The layout is configured to optimise journey times between surgery treatment and recovery areas, and for clinical care to be brought to patients’ rooms. Technology features include patient weighing beds, wireless technology and equipment tracking capability, and intelligent information systems such as bedside entertainment and meal ordering for patients. Advanced IT systems increase patient safety and provide improved clinical and patient information, and a fleet of automated vehicles help move equipment and supplies around the hospital.


Each patient bedroom is designed to create a healing environment with an emphasis on privacy, passive surveillance, the opportunity to display artwork and a place for visiting family to stay. Research has shown that having a natural view reduces the stress people may feel in a healthcare environment, and access to nature, such as therapeutic gardens, is a restorative experience. Thus each room has operable windows, natural light and external views, achieved with sophisticated monitoring and zoning. Careful acoustic design minimises patient disturbances; accessible gardens and open green spaces provide spaces for relaxation and healing; and naturally ventilated balconies provide opportunities for winter sun. Thoughtfully integrated art expresses themes of water, flora, earth, cultural diversity and indigenous people, contributing to the overarching story of a hospital in parkland, with parkland in the hospital.


In addition to passive solar design – optimised orientation, natural ventilation and extensive daylight penetration – other sustainability initiatives include rainwater and stormwater harvesting; high-efficiency water fittings; extensive water and energy metering and reporting for managing consumption; water sensitive landscaping; and water-efficient thermal plant. The project has a 50 per cent target reduction of greenhouse gas emissions compared to equivalent hospitals, and a co-generation system utilises waste heat from energy generators to provide heating and cooling to the building. Environmentally friendly finishes, such as low VOC paints and carpets, have also been used.


The importance of health and wellbeing also extended to the construction of the building, as the brief entailed that no scaffolding be used in its construction. “Falls from scaffolding is the number one cause of fatalities on building sites across Australia,” Richard says. “We therefore changed all the façade systems to those that could be craned into place rather than requiring scaffolding.”


It’s not always easy being green, but it’s definitely worth it as staff, patient and environmental health sit at core of the design of Royal Adelaide Hospital. It has the capacity to admit more than 80,000 patients per year, with 800 beds, including 100 same-day beds, 40 operating theatres, non-dedicated shared workspace, flexible areas and teaching zones, as well as a food court, retail precinct, gymnasium and crèche.

As Minister Jack Snelling concluded at the formalities of 3 September: “The new hospital begins a new chapter, today we mark the celebration of the building and although the fabric of a hospital may change, what matters most is the spirit of those who work here. May those who work at the new RAH generously serve the people of our State.”

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