The families of Melbourne’s very special kids have welcomed news the the construction on the $1 billion Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) has finally come to completion.
Nearly five years in the making, the redevelopment of the hospital, lead by construction team Lend Lease was completed on its exact due date, before the official patient opening which will take place in November.
While the hospital has a long history of excellence, its updates have been extreme. With much needed government funding allotted to the redevelopment back in 2007, the project undertaking was the largest of its type in Victoria, and one of the largest in the country.
While construction in the healthcare sector has skyrocketed due to generous private and government funding, the construction of a children’s hospital, especially one that is world class, is no small feat. The public private partnership (PPP) model under which the hospital redevelopment falls under led to the acquisition of Lend Lease and architects Billard Leece, Bates Smart and US firm HK.
The leading companies took on not only a business responsibility, but also a highly moral one, not offering to simply deliver a building, but to deliver a space that could potentially improve the quality of life, in addition to healing time of a sick child.
Keeping this fact in mind, the principle of ‘healing spaces’ is a design model that the team as a whole followed. Key features of comfort include 85% single rooms to enable privacy and familial bonding.
The incorporation of a highly sustainable design has a two-fold response. The first is the obvious, which lowers carbon emissions and creates a space that is offering to do no harm, much like practitioners inside. This will be made possible through the inclusion of rooftop rainwater collection, a blackwater treatment centre, chilled beam air conditioning, an overall commitment to a 10% energy use reduction, a biomass boiler, solar panels, 2.4 megawatt gas-fired trigeneration plant and extended bi-cycled space.
The second, and perhaps more relevant result is that through the interaction with parkland areas, use of non-toxic paints and low use of the certain dangerous chemicals and electricals, patients have been proven to heal better and need less pain medication (as was shown by neurologist Dr. Esther M. Sternberg in ‘Healing Spaces’). Simply seeing the outside with windows and natural light allows for a better well being of patients, an aspect that has been rigorously incorporated into RCH with 80% of patient rooms having views of the exterior parkland areas.
The overall aim for the redevelopment was to ‘de-institutionalise’ the hospital experience, the overall atmosphere of traditional hospitals is a common terror for young children. This has been communicated by the development of the seven level 165,000 sqm space that is a promotion of community and health with an emphasis on interaction, communication and warmth.
Though this by no means says that the hospital’s credibility has been lost in bright colour schemes and fun, child friendly gardens.
While implementing these aspects, the inclusion of a $12 million MRI machine and a barrage of world-class treatment facilities have also found their place, creating a true sense of all encompassing care.
The completed hospital has been a long time coming. It is an incredible addition to Melbourne on industry, healthcare and societal levels and according to the parents of RCH’s patients, upon its official opening, it will offer the greatest opportunity for the well being of their most important people.