Designed by Pilbrow & Partners in association with BMJ Architects, UCLH Phase 5 is state-of-the-art ear, nose, throat and dental specialist facility for University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Located on Huntley Street near Euston, the project co-locates diagnostic and treatment facilities with other trust departments – the aim being to reduce waiting times and the need for additional appointments.
Healthcare buildings such as these are traditionally planned with clinical spaces at the facade and waiting areas at the core. UCLH Phase 5 inverts this approach with examination rooms and teaching spaces located centrally, and waiting areas set within a series of bay windows on the street facade. The latter allow patients and visitors to wait in daylight with views across Bloomsbury. Conceived as a contemporary reinterpretation of the bay windows found on nineteenth-century mansion blocks, the masonry and glass enclosures incorporate perforated brickwork to minimise solar gain.
The prefabricated bay windows measure 5.5-metres wide by four-metres high, and are constructed from a combination of brick, precast concrete, aluminium and glass. The architect worked closely with Mace on the specification of the bays, which were delivered to site ready to be slotted into the structural frame. Traditional handmade bricks were chosen to complement the surrounding conservation area. Each brick batch was tested to ensure consistency of colour and appearance.
There were several reasons for using prefabrication, says the architect. First, prefabrication reduces on-site health and safety risks. Second, by installing five completed panels per day, the facade was completed in just 13 weeks, rather than the estimated 40 weeks needed to hand-lay the bricks onsite at height. Finally, prefabrication improves the quality of the detail and finish, resulting in a unified aesthetic that is difficult to achieve in situ.
The perforated masonry presented a major challenge due to its single skin construction and reduced mortar contact area. Ceramic spacers were employed on these locations, along with a special adhesive, to increase strength and flexibility. As the construction method had never been used before, prototype panels were produced and underwent extensive testing during excavation of the building’s four-storey basement.