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Healthcare specified: Ulster Hospital, Northern Ireland

Ulster Hospital’s new acute services block is deliberately outward looking and built with future flexibility in mind. Avanti Architects reveals the details

Architect’s statement
Andrew McKeown, director, Avanti Architects

The Acute Services Block is the last phase of the extensive Phase B Redevelopment Programme at the Ulster Hospital and completes a new central cluster of in-patient and emergency accommodation. Along with 213 inpatient beds, the eight-storey building provides an emergency department with observation and ambulatory care beds and radiology with nuclear medicine.

The design integrates with the surrounding hospital buildings in a clear and logical way that is sympathetic to their scale and form, and to create spaces both internally and externally that provide a warm, therapeutic, and safe healing environment. This design ethos has been applied holistically from considered enclosures and views to carefully landscaped courtyards, including the detail and material choice of fittings in bedrooms and early integration of art.

Large, full-height windows and transparency through the depth of the plan ensure that all departments feel strongly connected to nature and the seasons, breaking with the inward-looking, institutional feel that still dominates many hospitals. Externally, ward accommodation is expressed through the large areas of curtain wall with either transparent glazing or back coloured glass spandrel panels. Extensive use of glass unifies the curtain wall area so that it appears as a seamless glazed surface, which is framed within a light ceramic tiled dark grey rainscreen cladding. A concrete frame with flat slab construction and lightweight internal walls maximise future flexibility and allow the building to adapt to future clinical and servicing needs.

The ASB and surrounding buildings enclose abundantly landscaped courtyards that provide generous light levels and views. Internally, careful consideration has been given to the choice of materials and colours to create different identities for each department. This assists with wayfinding and orientation and gives patients, visitors and staff a therapeutic environment. 

Exterior view of the Acute Services Block
Exterior view of the Acute Services Block Credit: Donal McCann
View of ward circulation area
View of ward circulation area Credit: Donal McCann

Area 32,000m² 
Construction cost £125m 
Construction period 2016 to 2021
Total beds 213
Predicted on-site renewable energy generation 60.37kWh/yr
Annual electricity usage 70.77kWh/m²/yr


Client Strategic and Capital Development, South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust
Architects Avanti Architects in association with Kennedy FitzGerald
Landscape architect Gillespies
M & E engineer Cundall
Structural engineer Baker Hicks
Civil engineer Aecom
QS & CDM Capita Property & Infrastructure 
Contractor Graham Bam Healthcare Partnership joint venture 



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