Willmott Dixon Construction delivers exceptional consideration at the Sunderland Royal Hospital

Willmott Dixon Construction’s project involved the construction and internal alterations of discrete adult and children Emergency Department facilities, all requiring a highly sensitive approach to construction.

This was achieved to exceptional levels by the use of clinical screens, dust mats, acoustic blankets for the cutting zone, dust suppression, extraction units and collected rainwater. Heavy works were also programmed at specific times.

The project comprised a new extension to the current A&E facilities at the hospital which were completely remodelled. Two new buildings – one of which was 2.5 storeys high – were constructed, as well as a single-storey paediatric entrance and waiting area.

Outlining the challenges of construction in a working hospital, Site Manager Jeff French said:

“Having worked in a hospital environment for the last two years we have had to learn to adapt to the challenge this brings. It is imperative that certain activities remain unaffected at all times. The general public are more vulnerable due to the nature of their visits, either physical or mental, and this has to be considered at all times.”

The project team were also tasked with remodelling three large internal wards, one of which was the previous A&E Department. Great consideration was given towards the operational policy of the hospitals, including working alongside the ‘Blue Light Team’ and liaising with the fracture, endoscopy and other departments to ensure normal operations remained uncompromised.

Explaining the challenges of this specialist work, Jeff said:

“The logistics of the project and working within the layout of the site have been difficult. We only had access to the front of the project and had live wards on three sides, so building techniques and programming had to be carefully considered. Noise and dust have been key drivers throughout the project and we have had to sit with the supply chain and consider the working hours, activities and techniques employed to reduce the risk.”

During the first phase of the works, site-wide infrastructure had to be installed to bring services and supplies to facilitate the work reconfiguring the wards. New structural steel works and drainage alterations meant that the team had to operate in small closed-off sections and work to tight deadlines. A temporary ambulance entrance also had to be created to service the new works and allow the smooth transition of Phase Two which commenced, three weeks after the completion of Phase One.

Phase Two entailed the removal of asbestos from the existing A&E Department and the demolition of the front of the building, as well as a separate building. This was all carried out while the team stripped out and reconfigured the existing A&E Department.

You can find out how the team rose to the unique challenges of this project and read about the examples of best practice implemented by Willmott Dixon to comply with the Considerate Constructors Scheme by clicking on the sliders below:

  • A blue painted pedestrian walkway inside the work area added to the sense of good order.
  • The designated smoking area was protected from the rain, positioned out of public view, and was well looked after. A separate e-cigarette area was identified. Smoking was not permitted within the hospital boundary.
  • The site was very sensitive to its role in maintaining a suitably calm and low-key atmosphere and it remained very tidy and well presented.
  • Directional plans were issued to visitors and these included information about the visitors’ pay and display car parks in the hospital grounds.
  • New hospital signage was erected in and around the second phase, with colour coordinated strips updated.
  • The site regularly used Twitter and the trust’s intranet to communicate the latest information and updates. 
  • The site has continued its general liaison with NEAT (North East Ambulance Trust), the Local Neighbour Group, hospital-based charities such as Macmillan and the Royal Volunteers Café, as well as the Hospital Community Liaison Office.
  • A ‘Sandcastle Challenge’ was taken up in association with a local school to raise funds for charity Children North East, which supports poor and disadvantaged children and their families. The site also undertook ongoing acts of goodwill to benefit the local community.
  • A ‘letter box’ was installed in the hoarding for the public to leave comments.
  • The site received no complaints, which was of huge credit to the project team.
  • Although there was no on-site parking, there was an agreement to use a car park which is only a short walk away from the hospital site.
  • Around 86% of labour came from a 20-mile radius of the site and 86% of the site’s spend was also local. 
  • Willmott Dixon invests heavily in carbon offsetting to keep the business carbon neutral and has a comprehensive array of procedures which are certified under ISO 14001. The Site Manager on this project took the strict Scape framework environmental KPIs very seriously.
  • World Environmental Day was promoted on site and an environmental newsletter was published monthly.
  • The Project Manager supported the Newcastle Wood Recycling Group and the site used recycled wood for community projects.
  • The company’s carbon offsetting budget includes supporting farming activities in the developing world.
  • The Monitor was impressed by the clarity and effectiveness of the overall ‘All Safe’ system which backs up the Project Manager’s day-to-day procedures. The project team’s ‘blitz’ strategy was also praised which meant that priority items were tackled on the spot.
  • The site had access to the hospital system for first aid and this included use of a defibrillator. First aid equipment was also kept in the site office
  • Internal doors into the work area were secured by digital locks and a two-stage induction included a pre-enrolment online and a site briefing. 
  • The Health Desk, which was prepared with advice from the hospital, contained a good selection of ‘healthy lifestyle’ information and advice on general wellbeing.
  • The Project Manager fully explained Willmott Dixon’s commitment to the Scape recruitment requirements by hosting 52 site visits for potential employees and 52 recruitment days at nearby colleges.
  • Work experience was provided to 13 students and five apprentices were employed on site. 

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