Converting an existing office building into a state-of-the-art women’s private medical facility was always going to be challenging, but to do so in just 16 months is unprecedented.
Located at 50 Burwood Road in the inner Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn, the Healthbridge Private Hospital occupies 5247m2 over four levels and was formerly home to a number of corporate office suites.
Following the successful acquisition of the commercial property by the Healthbridge group in April 2010, consulting engineers Norman Disney & Young (NDY) were commissioned by architects HSPC to assist with the planning and engineering services design of this unique refurbishment and fitout.
Working closely with the architect, builder and services sub-contractors, the Health specialist team on this project provided the necessary engineering expertise to overcome the myriad of challenges posed by the building conversion. A lean total construction budget of $15 million, combined with a tight completion timeframe, ensured that efficiencies were addressed by all parties involved in the project.
According to project coordinator Ashley Marriott, the client brief called for the retention of as much of the existing services infrastructure as possible, while still complying with all relevant Code and health facility guidelines.
“When the base building infrastructure and services have been set up to accommodate a corporate office environment, creating a specialist IVF and women’s health clinic – complete with operating theatres, delivery suites and patient bedrooms – was always going to pose some interesting challenges” Marriott says.
“One of the main construction issues that we identified early on in the design brief was the necessity to partly demolish the core structure to allow for the replacement of major equipment such as chillers and diesel alternators” he adds.
Compounding these challenges was the limited availability of ‘as constructed’ documentation which necessitated the project team undertaking a significant amount of investigative work to assess existing services and infrastructure.
The client brief also required the provision of an additional future tenancy level that wouldn’t impact on business continuity. This required provisions for a future lift so that the existing lifts could be extended upwards to serve the additional levels without interrupting regular operations.
According to Marriott, one of the greatest challenges presented itself before work had even begun on the building. “Most of the pre-existing tenants vacated prior to commencement of major works, however, some opted to see out their tenancy terms – this required a high level of strategic maneuvering, and detailed planning was required to maintain services to the remaining tenants whilst allowing the demolitions to proceed”.
The changes in planning use from commercial office to medical also had major implications for the design of the engineering services.
Innovative engineering solutions were needed to accommodate the specialised medical services reticulation within the restrictive 3.85m floor-to-floor heights, which was further exacerbated by the requirement for 3m ceilings in the operating theatres. The requirement for optimum use of net lettable area also left little opportunity to increase plant space in the building.
“Our innovative solution to this problem was to locate some plant remotely in the covered car park area and then to reticulate services externally up to the operating theatres, concealed by purpose-designed camouflage pods without adversely impacting on the building’s aesthetics” explains project director Keith Davis. “The key to success with this project was the very close collaboration and integrated approach adopted by the design team, including the active participation of an extremely well informed client”.
Theatre packaged air-conditioning units have been securely accommodated in the covered car park and ducted up to the theatres. This provides excellent access for servicing and overcomes height restrictions and plant space limitations.
Further challenges involved providing for the establishment of medical gas bottle storage and an acoustically enclosed emergency standby diesel generator. Adjacent residents meant that acoustic considerations influenced the location of the generator yet enabled the electrical sub-mains to be reticulated to the main switchboard without encroaching into the significant height clearances which are needed for servicing and delivery vehicles.
Ecologically sustainable development (ESD) was also a consideration in the client brief so a wide range of initiatives to ensure the building refurbishment retained green off-shoots.
“The inclusion of computerised lighting controls was a meaningful and tangible way of ensuring lighting efficiency and energy savings” Davis says. “We also ensured that natural light was maximised in all patient areas and making provision for individual air-conditioning control to bedrooms – an important aspect of Evidence Based Design and the flexibility to give patients control over their immediate environment”.
Services also needed to accommodate metering to multiple tenants. By decommissioning a redundant dumb waiter, the project team reconfigured the space as a services riser to provide for additional service cabling and essential services requirements.
Lifts were successfully upgraded from conventional commercial passenger types to accommodate energy efficient bed passenger types within the constraints of the existing lift well structure. The lifts were fitted with the required manual controls and key override to facilitate the transport of liquid nitrogen in dewers to the IVF laboratory on level one.
The end result of the building conversion satisfies both form and function. The luxuriously appointed and spacious individual postnatal rooms cleverly disguise the vast web of essential services purposefully designed and built into the surrounding walls. NDY and HSPC have successfully given life to this significant healthcare conversion.