BDP helps to convert UWE Bristol Exhibition and Conference Centre into hospital

The Bristol studio of architecture and engineering practice BDP is helping to convert the UWE Bristol Exhibition and Conference Centre into an NHS Nightingale Hospital as part of the UK’s effort to tackle the coronavirus emergency.

Working with contractor Kier, BDP is providing the design and engineering expertise and skills to convert the centre into a temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients. It is due to accept its first patients by the end of April.

BDP is collaborating with clinicians, consultants and contractors on site to deliver an initial 300 beds, with the potential to increase bed numbers to 1,000 overall.

BDP has been drawing on its previous experience of designing large-scale healthcare facilities such as the Brunel Building at Southmead Hospital and liaising with its team at the ExCel Centre in London and other UK sites.

The key to the rapid progress required for these types of projects is having a clear concept which can adapt to suit the availability of materials and construction teams. To deliver this number of equipped beds in such a short timeframe requires all teams to have the experience and collaborative approach necessary to make rapid decisions so design and construction can take place in parallel.

The NHS Nightingale instruction manual published by BDP sets out its fit-out strategies and processes used at ExCel Centre and is providing invaluable guidance for the construction of other locations in the UK and globally. Similar hospitals have been commissioned in Bristol, Harrogate, Birmingham, Sunderland, Exeter and Manchester.

BDP Principal Nick Fairham, whose Bristol-based team is working closely with consultants, specialists and contractors from other organisations, describes it as “A high pressure, fast-paced environment where everyone is working collaboratively to deliver this vital facility”.

“The team has to think differently and challenge industry norms to ensure the new Nightingale Hospital opens on time with the facilities needed to support patients and staff.”

He added: “Delivering hospital facilities in exhibition centres and stadiums is unprecedented, so we have been drawing on our previous experience of designing large-scale healthcare facilities like Southmead Hospital in Bristol and Grange University Hospital in Wales which is to open a year earlier than scheduled to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are working closely with clinicians to ensure that every bed can be fitted with all the equipment required to treat Covid-19 patients and be cared for by dedicated staff in full PPE equipment. However, it is the scale, timeframe and purpose of this emergency facility that distinguishes it from any previous healthcare projects.”