In the fight against the coronavirus, London's ExCeL exhibition centre has been rapidly repurposed into an emergency COVID-19 facility, NHS Nightingale Hospital, in order to treat and support thousands more patients. The facility was officially opened on 3 April by the Prince of Wales who said the hospital "offers an intensely practical message of hope for those who will need it most at this time of national suffering."
Tackling the shortfall of hospital beds in London, 500 beds were set up in nine days at the centre and the number will increase over the next few weeks, rising to a total of 4,000 beds. Having undertaken a study proposing the use of exhibition centres for large scale temporary ICU facilities, our architects and engineers were contacted to help deliver the specialist healthcare conversion. Following the call, a team led by principal James Hepburn and architect director Paul Johnson was on site working with clinicians, consultants, the British Army, contractors, including main contractor CFES, and ExCeL London's facilities management team. The centre was an obvious choice for conversion due to its large flat floor hall spaces with flexible MEP infrastructure that can be easily adapted to meet the needs of the temporary hospital.
In order for the volume of equipped beds to be delivered within a short timeframe, all the teams made immediate decisions to allow construction to progress in parallel with the design. Solutions had to be flexible, quick to construct and take into account procurement channels to allow fit-out activities to commence immediately.
A modular, repeatable approach with minimal building intervention was adopted to ensure rapid delivery. The bed heads and service corridors have been constructed from a component system that is usually used to construct exhibition stands. Simple reinforcement allowed for services to be fitted to the walls and the existing electrical infrastructure was modified to increase the resilience, UPS and temporary generators.
Principal James Hepburn said "It was a very intense and exhausting first nine days, but it is a project that we are immensely proud to be involved in. BDP is part of a monumental team effort which is thriving in a proactive collaborative environment where everybody is pulling in the same direction to deliver this vital healthcare facility."
The NHS Nightingale Instruction Manual, outlines the different concepts that have been adopted for the emergency facility. It has been created so that information can be disseminated quickly across the UK and more globally. Solutions will be different for different sites but the poster shows strategies that we adopted based on the programme and the circumstances at the ExCeL centre.