The overall impression is of a durable, flexible design that could accommodate a variety of different uses, from health and social care through to teaching and office administration, should local need arise.
The development of standard-sized clinical rooms means the space could be used flexibly, with the ability to change office space to clinical rooms and vice versa.
Six months after it opened the building was renamed the Heart of Hounslow Polyclinic, as it extended its range of hours and services. The design team refitted some of the office areas to provide more clinical space; a diagnostic imaging suite and breast screening suite were added, and the sexual health department extended. The designed-in flexibility enabled changes in the use of space without major structural alterations.
The design and delivery team focused on the quality of experience for those finding their way to, and waiting for, appointments. For convenience, waiting spaces were distributed around the building, close to sub-receptions. The floor plan is simply arranged around the central atrium so that it could be easily understood and navigated. This is particularly important for patients with dementia and for people with learning disabilities.
The design and delivery team wanted to make a clear departure from health buildings which are conventionally bland with artificially lit corridors and low ceilings. The use of daylight and colour-coded suites helps everyone find their way around including people with visual impairments.
The atrium runs the full length of the building. This floods the central area with natural light and reduces the need for artificial lighting during daylight hours. Similarly, the glazed stairwells opening onto the corridors at intervals filter daylight, thus aiding orientation. At night, the atrium glows colourfully as the stained glass is lit from the inside.
Environmental considerations meant it was not possible to naturally ventilate the building, as it lies under the Heathrow flight path and open windows would have posed a problem acoustically. Instead the building is comfort cooled which means that warm air is extracted, cooled with the air from outside, and filtered back inside.
Penoyre & Prasad commissioned a post-occupancy evaluation. This was carried out by independent assessors, and looked at:
- energy use
This data, together with users’ perceptions of comfort, allowed them to identify how the building could be fine-tuned. For example, electricity use was higher than normal for this type of building. To address this, movement and light sensitive switches for lighting, and the use of incentives to encourage staff to switch equipment off were recommended.
The evaluation found that patients and staff enjoyed the building, and found it to be comfortable. Staff liked it for its ‘colour, atrium, light, space and impact’, and liked their common rooms at the top of the building because of the light and views. They also had some suggestions for what they would like to see in future, such as a roof terrace. Some felt frustrated that they were unable to open windows.