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Healthcare FOCUS

FO C U S

Free thinking
The innovative design of a hospital project in Nottinghamshire
prompted major departures from the prescriptive Firecode
guidance. Andy Passingham reports

HE Central Nottinghamshire
Modernisation of Acute Services
scheme includes the 95,000m2
redevelopment of Kings Mill
Hospital in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, England. It includes both
refurbishment and new-build elements.
The existing facilities are being fully
redeveloped to create a single unified
hospital comprising 28 new wards, a new
state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment
centre called the Kings Treatment
Centre (KTC) a new emergency care
and assessment centre with an out-ofhours general practitioners service, and
a dedicated women and childrens centre.
Some of the new facilities are now in
use, although the project is due to be
fully completed in 2011.
Three T-shaped ward blocks, linked
together over five floors, are located to the
rear of the diagnostic and treatment and
women and childrens centres. These two
major new-build elements are separated
by a concourse about 200m in length.
The women and childrens centre,
which has its own dedicated entrance
from the main hospital concourse, is
a two-storey elliptical building, which
includes outpatient and rapid access
departments, as well as in-patient facilities.

The project architects are Swanke


Hayden Connell (SHCA), for SkanskaInnisfree Private Finance Initiative (PFI)
Consortium. Arup Fire has been involved
as fire engineers in the project since the
early concept design at bidding stage,
through to involvement in on-site issues
as they have arisen.
Continual consultation with the local
NHS foundation trust and approval
authorities has ensured that the unique
design has been able to progress with
minimal risk, despite containing major
departures from code guidance.

Challenging Firecode
This project has been the first major
PFI healthcare project for SHCA in
the UK. From Arups perspective as fire
engineers, it has been clear from the
start that the architects approach to
design of the building, particularly the
diagnostic and treatement centre block,
has been unhindered by the healthcare
design baggage sometimes encountered
with designers who have been using
the Department of Healths Firecode
guidance documents technical fire
safety guidance for healthcare for many
years.

SHCA has extensive experience of


large commercial developments, and
sought to combine this with the needs
of a hospital. The architects fresh
approach to healthcare design, coupled
with Skanskas progressive construction
approach, has challenged some of the
fundamental concepts of Firecode.
This challenge to the basis of Firecode manifested itself most strongly in
the design of the KTC block. This block
is spread over two storeys, increasing to
three storeys as the site slopes down
towards the south. The design aims
to maximise the use of natural light
by providing a series of fingers of
accommodation, each separated by a
two- or three-storey void space. This
form of building design presented the
greatest challenges to the development
of the fire strategy.

Horizontal evacuation
Guidance for the fire safety design of
healthcare buildings is given in the
Firecode suite of Health Technical
Memorandum (HTM) documents. This
building was designed based on HTM
81: Fire Precautions in New Hospitals
(now superseded by HTM 05-02).

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M A Y 2010 31

FO C U S H e a l t h c a re

Figure 2: Arup solution using vertical compartment lines

Figure 1: Code-compliant solution


fire-rated enclosure of voids

Much of the guidance in this


document is aimed at the design of
large acute healthcare facilities, and is
mainly based around the movement
of bed-ridden patients in the building,
using progressive horizontal evacuation
to move patients horizontally through
lines of fire compartmentation away from
the fire-affected zone. This produces a
policy of evacuating the compartment
affected by the fire and then using a
defend in place approach to minimise
the disruption to the operation of the
hospital and reduce the necessity to
evacuate patients vertically, either via
evacuation lifts or by the stairs.
A key element of the defend in
place approach is to design the building
such that each storey forms a separate
fire compartment. The intention of this
is that it should only be necessary to
evacuate a single storey of the building
at any one time. The need for compartment floors was the central aspect of
the HTM guidance that was challenged
by the fire strategy.
Underlying the challenge to the code
approach is an understanding of the
nature of the building. By recognising
that the operation and the type of
occupants are very different to an acute
healthcare facility, the applicability of
some of the principles behind HTM 81

32 MAY 2010

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can be examined and questioned. As the


building is a diagnostic and treatment
centre, there will not be bed-ridden
patients, there are no wards, and the
level of impairment to mobility is significantly lower than is assumed in HTM
81. From this point of view, designing
the building around the movement
of beds is less vital than the acute care
areas of the hospital.

Vertical compartments
It is often acknowledged that the HTM
guidance does not address diagnostic
treatment buildings particularly well,
and this project provides a good example
of this. The strength of the HTM
document is that it is likely to produce
a conservative solution. However, where
innovation is desired, closer examination
of the code is essential.
A conventional code-based approach
would require each floor to form a
separate fire compartment in the KTC
block. As can be seen in Figure 1, the
open fingers which bring natural light

into the building are very much at odds


with conventional healthcare design
and the prescriptive code guidance.
To achieve compartment floors in
the KTC block, each of the two- and
three-storey voids would have had to
be completely enclosed with fire-rated
glazing. In addition to this, as each of
the fingers created a dead end, a fire
escape stair would be required at the
end of each finger.
By working closely with the
architects, Arup Fire developed the
solution shown in Figure 2. The guidance
in HTM 81 recommends that each
compartment is no more than 2,000m2
in area. The concept for the strategy is
to take this compartment size limit and
split it over two or three storeys using
vertical compartment lines rather than
horizontal. In this way, the evacuation of
a single compartment would not affect
any greater area than a conventional
code-compliant solution.
This splits the building into a series
of vertical compartments, allowing
the open floors to be provided within,

The 95,000m2 redevelopment includes both refurbishment and new-build elements

Healthcare FOCUS

FO C U S

Smoke control and glazing

The design needed to ensure that fire


would not spread across the voids

linking the storeys and removing the


need for compartmentation between
the floors. In addition to the increased
architectural openness achieved, this
approach had significant cost savings
on the amount of fire-rated glazing
needed, and also removed the need for
fire dampers on all penetrations between
these floors.

Linking walkways
To address the issue of the dead ends and
stairs in each finger, walkways linking
the ends of the fingers were introduced.
This greatly enhances the horizontal
evacuation, allowing options for moving
into adjacent compartments from all
areas of the KTC block. By providing
these additional options for horizontal
egress, the number of stairs required
could be reduced.
By extending the logic of initial
horizontal evacuation, it became
possible to provide a single stair in each
compartment. These were moved into
the voids and are fully open, designed
to appear as accommodation stairs. The
protection to the stairs is provided by
the lines of compartmentation in the
building occupants would not use
the stairs to evacuate the fire-affected
compartment; the stairs would only be
used once occupants had already passed
into an adjacent, protected compartment.

An additional benefit to the removal


of the compartment floors was that the
void spaces between the fingers no longer
breach compartment floors. Under
prescriptive code guidance, a void which
breaches compartmentation is classified
as an atrium. As such, in addition to a
fire-rated enclosure, it would be expected
to be provided with automatic smoke
control, which would involve designing
either natural or mechanical extract at
the top of the atrium, and make-up
air routes at the base, all of which
would need to automatically open or be
activated by smoke detectors.
By removing the compartment floors,
the need for smoke control was removed.
This greatly simplified the design of
the roof and faade of these spaces.
As the roof is constructed from ethylene
tetrafluoroethylene fabric, including
automatic smoke control would have
involved additional openable elements
being incorporated into the design.
As the compartment lines run along
the edge of the fingers, the design needed
to ensure that fire would not spread
across the voids. The compartment walls
are therefore constructed from fire-rated
materials, including fire-rated glazing
in the windows. The prescriptive code
recommendation is that this glazing
would be specified to provide both
integrity and insulation from fire.
By carrying out an analysis of the
radiation from the window panels, it was

shown that the reduction in radiation


from providing integrity-only glazing
would prevent fire spread across the
voids by this mechanism. This resulted
in a more cost-effective solution, with
greater flexibility available for the design
team in the detailing of the glazing
see Figure 3.

Concourse space
Linking the KTC block to the rest of
the building is a large concourse space.
As this area is used as part of the egress
routes for the KTC, and is a key area of
the building, it is provided with automatic smoke control. This is designed
using a fire engineering approach, based
on agreed design fire scenarios. These
are developed to allow flexibility in
the use of the concourse base, while
ensuring that fire in this space would
not cause the evacuation of the adjacent
compartments.
The smoke control system is provided
by coordinating the natural ventilation
of the space at high level with the
openings required for smoke venting,
and providing automatically opening
make-up air routes at low-level into
the space to ensure effective removal of
smoke. This is shown in Figure 4.
To assist the NHS foundation trust
with the implementation of the fire
strategy, typical examples of the level
of fire loading that the smoke control
system is designed for were provided.
This was based on a collection of fire

Figure 3: Glazing analysis for voids

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M A Y 2010 33

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Figure 4: Smoke control for large concourse space

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other relevant materials that could be encountered in the
concourse.
By adopting a fire engineering approach to the design
of the building, it was possible to allow open floors,
increased natural light and greater flexibility in the use
of the spaces, along with a cost-effective solution both in
terms of capital cost and ongoing operational and maintenance costs. For Arup, working closely with the design team,
the trust and the approval authorities was essential throughout
this process, to ensure that the design progressed with
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is a unique healthcare facility, freed from the restrictions
of the prescriptive code guidance

Andy Passingham is an associate director


with Arup Fire

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