Designing better mental healthcare facilities

Helping Trusts implement their decarbonisation plans

A new partnership to help NHS Trusts develop and implement their decarbonisation strategies has been launched, as senior NHS leaders say decarbonising the NHS estate is ‘fundamentally not complex’, but that more data and greater guidance are needed.

Led by the Wates Group – one of the UK’s leading family-owned construction and property services businesses – alongside a multidisciplinary team of built environment specialists, including Arup and HKS Architects, the Decarbonising Health Estates Partnership (DHEP) will ‘work to drive forward sustainability within hospital infrastructure, focusing on existing NHS estates’.

The partnership was ‘soft launched’ as part of a roundtable chaired by former Secretary of State for Health, and Chair of the NHS Confederation, Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell, on 12 October. Speaking at the event, representatives from NHS England as well as local NHS Trusts maintained that, at their core, hospitals are ‘another place where people gather -- like restaurants and hotels’ -- and that the health sector should ‘be taking lessons from other industries as it works towards the NHS’s goal to reach net zero carbon emissions under its direct control by 2040’.

Wates Group said: “The NHS is the most significant public sector contributor to climate change in the UK, representing over 5% of the UK’s total carbon footprint, equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 11 coal-fired power stations. The existing NHS estate and its supporting facilities services comprise 15% of the total carbon emissions profile. The roundtable highlighted the need for Trusts to invest in data collection and share experiences to understand what changes will have the most impact and ensure they are getting the ‘biggest bang for their buck’. One attendee noted that organisations will need to be prepared to have increased operational costs if they want to reduce their emissions. The event also explored the opportunity for NHS Trusts to act as ‘sustainability leaders’ in their local communities, for example using their vast buying power to influence the behaviours of local suppliers to minimise their carbon footprint.”

DHEP will use its expertise to develop bespoke solutions for NHS Trusts, helping them to find cost-effective solutions to reduce Scope 1 and 3 emissions in infrastructure ranging from whole estates to individual buildings. It will focus on delivering progress through improvements in the built environment, such as building fabric and building services systems, as well as helping Trusts to identify what information and data are required to undergo this work. 

Bonnie Chu, Healthcare Design director at Wates Group, said: “Existing NHS estates are more challenging to decarbonise than new-build facilities and will be crucial in helping the NHS reach their ambitious Net Zero targets. As an industry however, we need to take a step back and take a holistic approach to simplify the opportunities available, using our experiences from other sectors – be that hospitality through to education – and applying them to a healthcare setting. This exciting new partnership aims to actively work with Trusts to develop solutions which can transform their estates so that they are sustainable and fit for a Net-Zero future.”

Paul Sawyers, Principal and director of Health at HKS Architects, said: “While designing new sustainable hospitals for the future is extremely important, given the sheer quantity of existing hospitals, decarbonising these has to be a priority to reach net zero targets – but it does present a huge challenge. The creation of this partnership has helped everyone vastly expand their knowledge and understand, holistically, the issues involved. I am excited to be part of this dynamic team, driving forward the agenda to decarbonise health estates. Of course the hospital buildings themselves are only part of the story, but making up around a quarter of NHS carbon output, it’s a really key element. I look forward to continuing working as part of this partnership, to deliver a more sustainable future that still puts patient experience front and centre.”

A ‘white paper’ exploring the decarbonisation of NHS estates will be developed as a follow-up to the event.


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