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Q&A with sustainability champion, Vicky Casey

Vicky is an integral part of our healthcare sector team contributing to projects that have won multiple awards including RIBA, RICS, IHEEM and European Healthcare.

The requirement for future flexibility is always part of her vision alongside a patient focussed approach that the building first and foremost must facilitate the needs of all its users and be of exceptional quality.


What is your approach to sustainability when embarking on a new project?

Getting the big easy wins is critical. Orientation, massing, proportion of glazing, whether the building typology or site is suitable for natural ventilation all play a part. After that, taking inspiration from local materials can often lead to employing local trades, working with the vernacular and rooting a building in its context.

What do you see as the biggest challenge to delivering sustainable design within your role? How do you overcome challenges faced?

Sustainable design can often conflict with the complex requirements of 24/7 hospital buildings. Clinical areas have very precise infection control and ventilation requirements. You have to know which sustainable materials are appropriate and where the limitations are, then work to maximise the benefits and make lower tech areas work really hard to achieve the best outcome overall. Often budget is important; in the public sector we are at the mercy of government funding and it would be incredibly shortsighted to try and save on the build cost at the expense of a less sustainable solution for the longterm. It’s great that there is a focus on sustainable design in the new hospital programme.

What tools/resources do you think would help you?

One of the biggest things is access to experts. The fact that BDP is an interdisciplinary practice with sustainability leaders in-house is really beneficial. It’s impossible for any one person to know every aspect required to meet the decarbonising targets necessary within the next 20 years of building design. Knowing that so many different experts are only ever a phone call away is a great help.

Can you talk about a recent project you have worked on where we have used nature or nature-based solutions to help tackle the climate challenge?

On completion, Southmead Hospital was the most sustainable acute hospital in the UK; our design included a planted roof terrace where staff grow medicinal herbs to be used in patient and staff meals. This has since expanded to a staff run allotment on the wider hospital site. Additionally, we incorporated SuDS including sedum green roofs and therapy gardens to slow rainwater whilst surface runoff from the car park passes through swales and attenuation ponds. The SuDS have reduced surface water runoff by almost 40% and water consumption by 25% and surveys of the attenuation ponds have demonstrated that the invertebrate biodiversity is excellent for an urban environment. The large therapy gardens are used for physiotherapy and rehabilitation of patients. From day one we located key departments adjacent to these assets to maximise this future use.

What does living sustainably mean to you personally? Have you made any significant changes in your personal / home life?

My e-bike’s been an amazing addition; I am not road competent or confident and the e-bike lets me add a significant distance to my commute so that I can avoid all roads and ride 90% on designated cycleways/along the canal. Reading the book ‘How Bad Are Bananas’ was a revelation and focuses my attention on where the big wins are in terms of my carbon footprint. It’s such a good book, I highly recommend it!

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