The 13-story Grafton Way Building houses one of Europe’s largest treatment centres for blood disorders, a full imaging service and a hyper-modern surgery service. The building’s basement – an area large enough to house the whole of the Royal Albert Hall – is home to one of only two NHS Proton beam therapy (PBT) centres in the UK.
PBT is one of the world’s most technologically advanced cancer treatments. Using radiation that targets precise points on the body with minimal damage to surrounding tissue, the technology is hugely beneficial when treating complex childhood cancers or cancers that are difficult to reach.
The UK Government committed £250 million to fund two centres in London and Manchester. Arup played a leading role in the design and client support teams at both facilities from concept to completion, bringing together specialist expertise in healthcare and sustainable building design.
The new state-of-the-art centre in London has patient needs at the heart of its design. Opened to surgical patients in April 2021, the first PBT patients were treated in December 2021, putting University College London Hospital (UCLH) at the forefront of cancer treatment. In January 2022, the haematology wards opened.
UCLH set out to build a world-class healthcare facility with sustainability and energy conservation embedded throughout its design. Delivering PBT is hugely energy-intensive, requiring over 1.5MW of electrical energy – akin to a small district hospital – and generating a lot of heat, placing a significant demand on cooling systems.
Working with Camden Council, we developed an energy strategy that captures the waste heat from the proton beam equipment through a water-water heat pump, ultimately recovering 250kW of energy and reducing the load on the boilers – instrumental in obtaining planning permission for this facility.
The energy strategy, as well as other energy-saving measures, including a combined heat and power plant to supply the base hot water demand, a high performing façade that optimises the thermal environment throughout the year, solar panels, and energy efficient distribution systems, led to the project achieving BREEAM Excellent rating.
Building from the basement up
The basement is 28.5m deep and home to the PBT facility. Instrumental to the build’s success was ensuring the facility maintained power continuously whilst the rest of the hospital was built around it.
Our design team developed a clear strategy to ensure the PBT facility was operational early – to enable the PBT equipment to be commissioned – and could be easily deconstructed from within the finished hospital many years later.
The PBT technology’s extensive power and cooling requirements were provided by a temporary plant on a gantry outside the building, feeding into the basement. Detailed logistical planning ensured none of these temporary works interfered with building plans. At the end of building works, the PBT facility was connected to the permanent plant room and the temporary facility was safely removed without causing delays.
Focus on the patient experience
The building design was carefully considered to optimise daylight into the core through a central atrium with roof lights. Tranquil outside spaces were also incorporated into the design for both staff and patients to enjoy.
Being in central London, the building is overlooked by residential buildings on several sides, creating issues of patient privacy. The building façade was designed to mitigate visibility and address these privacy issues whilst providing daylight and the ability to watch the world go by – an important aspect of the recovery process to improve wellbeing.
The whole design focused on maximising on this external location, which informed the decision to put the plant in the basement and on the roof.
Building on a longstanding relationship
This project exemplifies the depth of our ongoing relationship with UCLH; with past work including the award-winning UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre, The Royal National Ear Nose & Throat and Eastman Dental Hospitals, The Neuro Muscular Complex Care Centre, Queen Square, and The Cotton Rooms.
We are now working with UCLH to connect the Grafton Way building with MacMillian Cancer Centre and The Royal National ENT and Eastman Dental Hospitals to one district heating system – delivering carbon reductions and long-term resilience for UCLH.