was their MMC strategy, with both the Health Board and the construction team keen to use pre-assembled components wherever possible.

This led to a strategy of ‘Product-Led

Design,’ with a detailed understanding of the potential and constraints of the manufacturing process to inform the development of design. For example, while essentially only three different types of precast facade panels have been utilised, different aluminium window configurations set within the standardised openings produced more “interesting and lively facades” than would have been possible under a more “cookie-cutter” approach.” To enact this, the practice’s use of BIM provided a system whereby panel geometry could be transferred seamlessly to the manufacturing team from architectural design models. The teams embraced paperless methods here, reviewing panel geometry and data in 3D and communicating using BIMCollab. The MMC elements that were eventually included within this strategy were wide- ranging, including reconstituted stone, insulation and load bearing inner skin sandwich panels incorporating pre-installed windows, precast concrete columns, precast concrete sheer walls, hollow core prestressed plans, precast stairs, bathroom pods and vertical services riser modules. The team also used virtual reality “extensively” for interior design reviews, progress reporting and briefing on the client’s monitoring team, as well as for a virtual tour website created for hospital staff orientation – which also proved useful for the construction team. According to Laing O'Rourke, these methods combined provided a “measurable improvement in productivity overall,” saving 42 weeks or 23% of the programme as compared with a traditional build, as well as the reduction of health and safety and waste issues. With the vastly increased need for rehabilitation demanded by Covid, this system even allowed the construction team to bring the Grange’s completion forward by some six months. Besides the speed of the MMC used, this was also made possible by focusing on completing the inpatient care zone (the area most needed in the area through the pandemic), as representing a different entity from the other zones, and one which didn’t rely on the others.

Making a difference Looking back on the success of the project, ADF AUGUST 2021


Hitchcock attributes much of it to MMC, the in-depth modelling process behind it, and the benefits brought to the construction team. Despite this, he warns that achieving success with MMC against the complex needs of NHS facilities is not as easy as “cutting and pasting,” and that there were many aspects of realising the project’s ambitions, particularly in financial terms, that proved a significant challenge. “There is always a huge amount of scrutiny as to how money is spent, where capital is released, and in all areas of the design. It can be tough sometimes – but it’s worth it to be a part of such important projects and their contributions to society,” he says.

After working in the healthcare sector for over 30 years, and for a practice celebrating its 60th birthday this year, Adrian knows more than most “the crucial part of the fabric of our society” healthcare provides, and believes that through design in this sector, architects are able to “make a real difference to the critical points in people’s lives.” While he says it can be “frustrating” enduring the slow fruition of such large scale projects, he tells me there is “real joy in the degree of engagement with the building’s users and the benefits design is able to bring to them.” “Ultimately, healthcare is a large part of our civic fabric in the UK, and at the heart of a lot of communities,” he concludes. “They are hugely important to us as a collective, and the pandemic has heightened that appreciation.” 

 Clinical Zone  Family Zone  En-suite Bathroom


Construction cost: £350m Floor area: 55,000 m² Client: Aneurin Bevan University Health Board Architect: BDP Contractor: Laing O’Rourke Engineering team: Aecom and WSP Ceilings: Rockfon Vinyl: Polyflor Dry lining supplies: British Gypsum Windows & curtain walling: Kawneer Prefabricated steel beams: Peikko


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