The new children’s hospital in Dublin is the most significant capital investment in healthcare in Ireland to date: a world-class paediatric health facility that combines the services of three existing sites. Working with the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board and Children’s Health Ireland, Arup’s engineers, transport advisors and digital-architecture experts were brought in to help design a future-facing, sustainable and patient-centred facility.

The nch will be 160,000 m2 with 6,000 rooms across seven above-ground storeys and with ambitious targets for lowering carbon emissions. With Arup’s thermal modelling expertise, the building envelope was designed for energy efficiency, and our mechanical engineers specified heating, cooling and ventilation equipment and design. The nch will be Ireland’s first digital hospital, and Arup designed the building’s digital architecture and clinical command centre.  

The nch has been awarded a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating at its design stage – a sustainability rating which assesses the environmental performance of the building’s design. During the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2021, Arup collaborated with Jones Engineering and the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) to create a virtual technical tour of the nch, which provided an innovative way to give young engineers insights into the design and construction of the hospital while site walk-throughs weren't possible.

Digitally enabled healthcare

Being the first digital public hospital in Ireland required a significant investment in ICT data infrastructure. With healthcare innovation evolving at a rapid rate, future-proofing the hospital is key to facilitating optimal delivery of current and developing clinical best practice.

Arup’s digital specialists undertook workshops with clinical, corporate, patient, IT and facilities management teams to understand their needs and define the building and operations systems’ relationships within a digital architecture. The supporting infrastructure is designed to enable the delivery of healthcare into the future with an Electronic Health Records (EHR) system, supported by a clinical command centre.

Designing in a live hospital environment


"Aerial view of the new children's hospital on the St. James's Hospital Campus with the surrounding suburbs
Safeguarding accessibility to the existing hospital was essential in achieving planning permission for the new development. Our transport advisors prepared a transportation strategy and mobility management plan promoting access to the St. James’s Hospital campus by sustainable and active travel modes to meet the mobility needs of patients, their families and staff.

Our transport advisors and digital specialists also recommended the use of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) for the first time in an Irish hospital to manage the movement of goods and waste. Moving trolleys and cages around hospitals causes significant wear and tear, so the introduction of automated solutions will reduce impacts on the building, while improving service and efficiency.

Mechanical engineering

Our engineers ensured that the current hospital could function as normal throughout design and construction of the new facility. Ahead of construction, an underground utilities tunnel was diverted to clear the site for the new building. Our mechanical and electrical engineers worked closely with the design team, contractors and St. James’s Hospital Technical Services Department to divert these live critical systems, completing the work safely with no disruptions.

Our mechanical engineers also specified high-efficiency heating, cooling and ventilation equipment, incorporating heat recovery where possible. Natural ventilation is used in non-critical areas, maximising the health benefits of breathing fresh air, while also reducing energy consumption.

Child-friendly spaces: custom designs prioritise patient comfort

To create a low stress home-from-home feeling for children and their families, the design solutions seek to promote healing and alter the children’s perceptions of what a hospital should be like. Gardens and play areas are vital to support patients during their time in hospital.

Our lighting designers incorporated LED lighting throughout the hospital to improve the building’s energy efficiency. Natural light is maximised in patient bedrooms, which has proven therapeutic benefits. Specialised lighting fixtures will be installed in play areas to create an immersive escape for patients and families, giving them a much-needed distraction from the surrounding medical environment.