Simon joined us in March 2017 as senior associate for healthcare design. Six months into the role, he tells us how he is supporting our expansion into large scale national healthcare projects, promoting business development opportunities and mentoring our healthcare team to deliver higher quality designs.
You’ve been with Stride Treglown for six months. Can you talk a bit about your background?
Working most recently for Hassell and before that, Nightingale Associates, my background is in large newbuild hospital projects that take years from concept to completion. Those kinds of project are extraordinarily challenging but force you to focus on just the project. You don’t have the opportunity to keep abreast of clients’ broader strategic concerns or to interrogate user needs in the kind of depth I’d like.
What appealed to you about the approach of Stride Treglown?
I relished the chance to see a different side to healthcare design. Stride Treglown is trusted advisor to an enormous range of clients. This means that they don’t just get involved in large-scale projects. Their expertise is also retained for masterplanning strategies and many high-quality smaller refurbishment or extension projects that wrestle with the everyday challenges of healthcare delivery.
Updating and reconfiguring existing buildings on pre-determined footprints takes creative energy and, critically, a deep understanding of all the users’ and stakeholders’ needs to make sure it all works smoothly. That was very attractive to me.
How does working for Stride Treglown differ from you previous experience?
The contrast with the large-scale healthcare design work I used to do is interesting. The variety and quick turnaround of comparatively small projects and engaging with lots of different clients and users is very motivating. You quickly acquire a broad understanding of both the wider issues confronting clients and how to work round structures that weren’t designed to today’s standards.
In the context of increasing demand for beds, backlog maintenance, advances in technology and treatment regimes, shifting policy priorities, and the capital funding squeeze, clients are having to do more with less. The inevitable consequence is that clients are much more focused on refurbishments, extensions, and innovative funding models. As a multi-disciplinary practice with broad cross-sectoral expertise to complement our healthcare team, Stride Treglown offers enormous value.
Does this require a different approach to projects?
This kind of work requires us to be highly responsive to both the client and the users, and much more agile in our design response.
The starting point is to understand the client drivers in the context of their particular short-, medium- and long-term objectives.
Next is to interrogate all the users – clinical team, patients, and ancillary staff – to understand their needs, processes, and flows. It’s only then that you can start the truly creative process of adjusting standard room layouts and dimensions to the realities of fixed pre-existing structures.
Each project has to be approached from first principles. That said, it takes considerable experience to know what compromises to make for an appropriate, effective and successful outcome.
What are you currently working on?
A really good example of this design approach is our current project for a general intensive care unit at Southampton Hospital. The joy for me is that although it is just one part of a larger building, we’re able to focus completely on just that department.
Four months in and we’ve already had day-long workshops with the lead consultants, and visits to see exemplar units overseas and elsewhere in the UK. We’re also working closely with the nurses, managers and support and maintenance staff. For example, we’re understanding how the nurses work, what levels of observation they need, and how they handover to the next shift. We’re also analysing the routes porters take and why, and the flows of supplies and storage needs.
Back at the drawing board, you’re forced to juggle multiple factors for an optimum solution, testing all these inputs against the technical and clinical need and your own experience, all within the constraints of an existing building.
You really need to think outside the box. For example, the MRI scanner on the storey below was a limiting constraint. You can’t put patient beds immediately above it. Nonetheless, we extracted really good value from the space by dedicating it as rehabilitation space for recovering patients. It also doubles up as a lightwell to bring welcome daylight into the heart of the plan, with all the gains for swifter recovery that brings.
Elsewhere, we’re involved in everything from strategic masterplans to designing modular units to meet the urgent need for extra beds or surgical change to capacity. We consult on rationalizing estates. For example, we’re looking at several projects where public services are combined or where ground-floor space is reconfigured for retail to raise revenue.
We’re also advising on options for selling redundant parts of the estate for best value. This isn’t just about cashing in; we’re currently looking at adding elderly care homes as a complementary development that confronts the very serious issue of bed-blocking in hospitals. Our cross-sectoral, multi-disciplinary expertise in all areas of healthcare design again is critical in helping our clients to make the best decisions.
It has been a short period with Stride Treglown but are there any lessons you have learned?
I’ve learnt that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You’ve got to be very responsive, inventive, agile, and less reliant on guidance or the standard model. The only way to do that is to listen hard to your client and users, and understand the bigger picture. You learn a lot, fast, and always with the knowledge that you’re helping to improve healthcare provision for the country. It’s very rewarding.
Simon will be representing Stride Treglown at IHEEM Healthcare Estates on 10 – 11 October, alongside Dan Van Luttmer and Adam Parry. Meet them on stand F15 to find out about our digital approach to healthcare design.