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Natalspruit Hospital
Vosloorus, Gauteng


Client:Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development and Department of Health


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26°21'26.50" S 28°13'29.06" E Alt: 1570m


The deliverables for the Natalspruit Hospital project were to provide a fully functional Level 1 and Level 2 hospital, including separate TB and Step-Down wards.

The client, the Gauteng Departments of Infrastructure Development and Health, instructed that it should be a first-class, quality hospital. The quality of finishes had to be comparable to those of private hospitals.

The restricted time frames were partly responsible for the modular design of the structure – comprising eight blocks - however the architect's long-standing experience in hospital design was another reason for this approach. A modular kit of parts was developed for the whole hospital design – a structural grid system that could be flexible enough to accommodate any medical department.

The client also challenged the architects to create a structure conducive to a healing environment - maximizing natural light and ventilation. A contributing factor for fast healing of TB includes ample sunlight and fresh air. While light is controlled via aluminium panel cladding on the façade and light wells, ventilation was designed specifically with the TB unit in mind. This unit is located on the roof and also has open terraces.

Patients arriving at the hospital are screened and referred to it via a "Gateway Clinic" at the main entrance. From there, they move to an "internal hospital street" on the ground floor. The three floors of the hospital are designed around this internal atrium. The internal, enclosed street is a controlled area, accessible to the public, and where they move, sequentially, through the basic hospital services. It is "the primary circulation area" of the hospital.

Ramps lead from the public internal street to all the other departments on the upper floors.

The interiors of each block are plastered and painted with unique colour codes to guide users through the hospital. Red face brick indicates vertical circulation via staircases while lift wells are all painted blue. Every block has its own colour scheme which relates to its function.

Access points are either at the beginning or the end of the block and their unique colour coding allows users to identify access to and from that block.

At street level, the public can easily access outpatient services, a pharmacy, administrative offices and a waiting area for radiology. Access to the wards is via a strict security system. There is a clear distinction between public and staff areas.

The lower-ground area is exclusively for hospital staff and includes the kitchen, mortuary, store rooms, laundry and administrative block. The public only has controlled access from the first through to the third floors.

A clear distinction was also made between the movement of medical waste and food, each of which has separately designated routes. Food is transported to the wards from the kitchen at a lower level via a lift.

As far as green principles are concerned, conventional materials have been used due to budget constraints – for instance, face brick was chosen for ease of maintenance. Due to the limitations of the site, passive design could not be used for solar control. Galvanised steel frames make up the structural cladding on the exterior east and west facades. In addition to controlling direct sunlight into the entire building, these elements double up as modesty panels.

Two light wells are located at the centre of each block, close to the nurses' stations in the wards, and allow light to penetrate the building. The internal hospital street, as the first point of entry into the hospital, is covered with translucent sheeting and also allows natural light to enter from above. As a result, there is a sense of openness to the outside rather than enclosed, cave-like atmosphere.

Specific vertical risers and horizontal sections were designed for the services. Each service shaft is subdivided into electrical, mechanical, IT, water and medical gas which run vertically and then horizontally across each block. Services are located in clear, uncluttered work zones for ease of construction. In addition, all engineering services can be controlled from a single control room; providing a fully integrated system. This approach made for an uncluttered, clear, sub divisible and programmable design and construction execution.

Ref: Paraphrased from article by Hillary Erasmus in Building Africa – June 2010: pgs 5 – 7.

[Submitted by William MARTINSON]

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.