As part of the national response to Covid-19, NHS Nightingale Hospital Exeter opened in 2020, introducing an extra 116 beds for patients suffering from coronavirus. Arup provided a range of services to help transform an empty retail store into an acute medical facility, working collaboratively with the project team to complete the project in tight timeframes.
Designed for flexibility, the success of NHS Nightingale Hospital Exeter is marked by its continued use beyond the initial pandemic response. Since opening, the centre has hosted Covid-19 patients, diagnostic screening, Covid-19 vaccine trials and training for overseas nurses. It is now being used to reduce NHS waiting lists in the South West, with a range of services on site including surgery and diagnostic screening.
So, how did the project team turn an old DIY store, with no suitable infrastructure, into an acute medical facility with all necessary ancillary space and welfare areas – in just 57 days?
Unlocking the power of digital to speed up construction
The design, construction and client teams worked collaboratively to resolve issues as they arose. Embracing paperless construction, from foundation loading information to DWG design drawings. Together, we carried out virtual site visits via Teams and WhatsApp, completed drone surveys and created Matterport 3D models.
Using modern methods of construction to accelerate progress
Almost 60 prefabricated single-storey buildings were connected to the existing retail unit. These off-the-shelf modules more than doubled the size of the original building – from 3,300m² to 8,200m² – as well as providing the support structure for the engineering plant units. They accommodate a range of facilities, including the pharmacy, staff welfare, catering, utility rooms, patient transfer and stores. They can also be unbolted and reused elsewhere if local needs change.
Designing and developing in real-time
Tight timeframes and budget controls required totally new ways of working. While a project of this scale would typically be run by a single surveyor, NHS Nightingale Hospital Exeter had a team of seven surveyors, all working without detailed designs and relying on timely site information. Our engineers often worked 24 hours ahead of construction, designing some elements hours before they were installed and adapting designs based on available materials and labour. We worked with the client team on a fully open-book basis to deliver a safe and comfortable space for patients.
Creating a new hospital in the covid era
NHS Nightingale Hospital Exeter was completed on time and to budget, without a single reportable incident or Covid-19 issue. To put this in context, over 2,500 people were employed on site, with 468 at its peak. The site was operational seven days a week, up to 20 hours a day, and received 20 articulated lorry deliveries every day. It was at the forefront of Covid construction practice, with social distancing and biosecurity measures including a single stall external entry with body temperature monitoring cameras to maintain the highest levels of safety.
This project brought together many different organisations and agencies who all collaborated with each other to create a truly incredible hospital in a very short time. This is a significant achievement and I am deeply appreciative of the support provided. ” Philippa Slinger Chief Executive, Nightingale Hospital Exeter