Specialist facilities

Birmingham, and Bristol, benchmarking good practice, and compiling lessons learned. This process, combined with architectural and healthcare planning input and frequent meetings, resulted in a concept scheme being agreed upon in a relatively short timescale. Stakeholder events formed an integral part of the design process, with input from various health professionals and advisors, women who had used the Trust’s perinatal service, and senior figures from within the Trust all contributing to the emerging design. Our team worked in parallel on the initial two aspects of the project, appraising available sites for the building, and establishing the fundamental design principles necessary to ensure the success of the MBU. A chosen site was identified, close to the

Trust’s other mental health services inpatient accommodation, and co-located on the same site as the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, where there is an obstetric-led maternity unit on the Wonford House site in Exeter.

THE DESIGN PRINCIPLES Key strategic design principles identified by the

team included: l The creation of a modern, ‘state-of-the-art’ perinatal mental health unit which draws upon both national and international best practice.

l Provision of a functional building which is ‘peaceful, sensitive, and intuitive’, allowing staff to work at the highest level, and which would enhance the recruitment and retention of staff on the unit.

l Creation of a welcoming and homely environment.

l The building should be ‘inspiring and open’, inviting mothers and babies to enjoy a rich and full life while staying within the MBU environment.

l It should interact with its surrounding landscape; an opportunity should be realised that encourages the use of the building’s gardens. The outside spaces are to be very much part of a positive experience of living on the unit.

l ‘Intervisibility’ and openness should be ‘used in a positive way to encourage users to positively engage with one another whilst staying in the unit’. For example, mothers can look from their individual rooms to see if a friend or member of their support team can be found in the communal kitchen area.

l Dignity, privacy, and respect, are themes that informed the layout.

l The building had to conform to Department of Health and other statutory guidance, and to be designed in a way which would allow for future flexibility.

l Safety and security were paramount – in both the space planning, and the detailed design of the layout.

The design concept While the building is on three levels, the principal patient level is at ground level, and is focused around a courtyard. The building wraps itself around the courtyard akin to a cloistered collegiate courtyard. This cloistered courtyard links the most important components of the MBU, such as day spaces, bedrooms, and family


Among the key design requirements was that the new Mother & Baby Unit should ‘interact with its surrounding landscape’.

rooms, with safe protected external space. The garden is the heart of the scheme. Views into and through the courtyard will ensure that the MBU has an open, welcoming character, filling the building with great natural light and colour. The building itself is small-scale, with an abundance of sunlight entering through the clerestory rooflights, plentiful natural ventilation, and a feeling of wellbeing promoted. The circulation space transitions between open plan rooms and corridors, avoiding an institutional enclosed feel. Individual rooms often have high vaulted ceilings, and an airiness which was uncommon in many of the units that we visited.

‘BLURRING THE BOUNDARIES’ BETWEEN INSIDE AND OUT The use of large amounts of glass ensures that the building blurs the boundaries between inside and out, with folding doors further enhancing this feeling. The courtyard garden is experienced whether the building is opened or closed, truly bringing the outside in, whether in summer or winter. Individual bedrooms have their own exterior

terrace – a veranda allowing mother and baby to sit and enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds, of the garden. The aesthetic of the building is carefully handled through the use of a balance of materials, including timber cladding, render, zinc roofing, and glass. The intention is to create the feeling and atmosphere of a large domestic house or small hotel, as opposed to a psychiatric unit.

The project was unique in that, of the four MBU centres to be commissioned by the NHS in England nationally, this one was to be the only purpose-built new building.

FLATS FOR VISITING FAMILY MEMBERS Offices for the community outreach team are provided at lower ground floor level, with access directly up into the main MBU via a controlled access lift and stairs. At first floor level two flats have been designed specifically for visiting family members to stay overnight on the unit. A controlled access route from the main entrance to the flats ensures that visitors do not inadvertently gain access to the secure areas of the unit. It is intended that as mothers reach the end of their stay on the MBU, they will be able to walk with their babies through the gardens of the Wonford House site to enjoy the landscape of the grounds and the wider area. The building is designed to BREEAM ‘Excellent’ standard, and incorporates a number of energy-reducing features. Anti-ligature has also been paramount to the design process, and we have worked hard to ensure that this is achieved while maintaining a domestic and normal feel to the environment. Great care has been taken to ensure that we have safeguarded against self-harm.

STAKEHOLDER INVOLVEMENT Stakeholder engagement was a strong component of the design process, (one former user said seeing the building made her want to have another baby). Consultant psychiatrist and lead for the project, Dr Jo Black, is keen for the homely and domestic feel to be taken through the whole design, and particularly through the interior design. To guide and shape this process, a specialist interior designer will be assisting. n

l Tony Pollintine co-presented on the Devon Partnership NHS Trust’s new Mother & Baby Unit at May’s Design in Mental Health 2018 conference, in conjunction with Dr Jo Black, a consultant perinatal psychiatrist at the Trust, with the latter explaining the background to the new facility’s development, and why it was needed.

Tony Pollintine and Grainge Architects

Grainge Architects has developed from its beginnings in 1990 to become one of the leading architectural practices in the South West of England. It has built up strong experience in many sectors, including health, community, churches, education, public and private housing, emergency services, hotels, and commerce. Its work encompasses full building and fit-out design, urban design, feasibility studies, masterplanning, and client-advisory services. Tony Pollintine, who is co-owner of the practice, was the director who conceived the project concept for the new Devon Partnership NHS Trust Mother and Baby Unit, while working in collaboration with the wider project team.

©Grainge Architects

©Grainge Architects

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