The Catkin Centre and Sunflower House are part of Alder Hey in the Park – the first NHS health park for children in the UK at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital – and PEFC certified timber plays a key part in its healthy biophilic approach.
The Catkin Centre gets its name from the seedpod of an Alder tree. Like Sunflower House, this represents new life and growth, in this case from the Alder tree and of course symbolic of Alder Hey.
The twin buildings surround landscaped courtyards with consulting rooms, bedrooms and play spaces to provide a healthcare setting that doesn’t feel like a hospital. The specialist children’s mental health unit and outpatient unit have been designed with the biophilic benefits of timber centre stage. This was driven by B&K Structures (BKS) and lead architect, Cullinan Studio using the well-being benefits of wood to create a landmark healthcare project.
Contact with nature is understood to improve health, reduce stress, enhance quality of life and aid the recovery of those with mental health or behavioural issues. Alder Hey in the Park breaks the mould of the institutional appearance of our NHS landscape, with the architect’s vision complementing planting – both inside and outside the buildings – with the sensitive and creative use of engineered timber.
BKS was chosen to deliver a hybrid solution involving its regular supply chain partner, Stora Enso to produce all the cross laminated timber (CLT) elements which defines much of the space. The project contained a total of over 668m³ of engineered timber, which was sustainably sourced and delivered with a 100% PEFC certified full chain of custody claim – earning maximum points at MAT03 of BREEAM.
The project involved the supply and erection of 4,379sq m of CLT, plus 42m3 of glulam columns and
beams, as well as 223 tonnes of steelwork by BKS. According to project structural engineer Buro Happold: “As well as being aesthetically pleasing, the choice of timber delivered the added benefit of reducing the new building’s embodied carbon footprint. The design team was able to reassure the NHS that CLT walls would prove suitable in terms of the infection control needs of a clinical setting. Specialist acoustics and fire engineering teams also fed into the design, helping to realise a timber building in this unusual medical setting.”
The healthcare sector is paying closer attention to the holistic aspect of healing and creating spaces that promote health and recovery through carefully selected surroundings. Utilising mass timber also allows the material to take a more prominent role in the aesthetic of the building and deliver its biophilic benefits, making this incredibly appropriate for a healthcare facility. The Alder Hey Hospital units are an exemplar for timber and offsite construction and a unique contribution to healthcare.
Beth Roper, BKS Marketing Manager: “Alder Hey’s design decisions were shaped by concern for reducing stress and promoting positive effects on health and wellbeing. PEFC certified CLT and glulam were selected for their biophilic benefits and natural visual appeal, whilst maintaining affordability for the NHS.
The responsible management of our supply chain ensures the timber used will be replaced by new growth in just 2 minutes and 26 seconds, and at the end of the building’s life the structure will be relatively easy to dismantle and recycle, contributing to a circular economy. BKS were delighted to design, supply and install the structural timber elements for this landmark healthcare campus which has become a possible blueprint for future NHS developments.”
*Credit Alder Hey Childrens Hospital