Engineering change: ‘Living Systems’ submission wins Wolfson Economics Prize

29 November 2021

We’re proud to have worked with Ab Rogers Design and a wider design team on the winning ‘Living Systems’ submission for the Wolfson Economics Prize, which sought concepts to ‘radically improve’ NHS hospitals.

The competition – organised by free markets think-tank Policy Exchange and the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust – asked participants to consider how new hospital design and planning could ‘radically improve patient experiences, clinical outcomes, staff wellbeing and integration with wider health and social care’. Judges included Maggie’s chief executive Laura Lee and architect Robert AM Stern.

Hospitals must adapt over their lifetime as they respond to changing technologies and methods of healthcare. Our joint submission designed the structural frame to revolve around flexibility as well as sustainability, reuse and the circular economy. While the building form is bespoke, the structural frame is still simple, minimising inefficient features such as cantilevers and transfer structures in order to keep embodied carbon levels down. Through new and innovative approaches like this one, which has been selected from a total 98 submissions, healthcare can become more flexible, sustainable and responsive.

"The aim of passive design is to create spaces which remain comfortable with the minimum use of active systems. The circular plan of the upper parts of the building has a low form factor creating a thermally efficient envelope with minimal quantities of insulation material." - Phil Armitage, Senior Partner at Max Fordham

Collaborating with Gardiner & Theobald, Elliott Wood, Nulty Bespoke, Expedition Engineering Ltd, Publica, Dan Pearson Studio, David Powell, Toby Anstruther, Mariana Mazzucato and Javier Botella, we provided innovative ideas for bespoke M&E Engineering solutions.

While the cores, heavy plant and the containing perimeter are fixed - the latter through the configuration of steels, columns, and large timber beams - a flexible, integrated M&E system will run across the hospital's internal framework to maximise the fluidity of what lies in between, allowing for rapid change and transformation.

"In terms of how you deal with change over time... the building should have a permanent spine and nervous system, which is there in the long-term multiple spines [...], the spaces... as regenerative limps, which you can take back and regrow as necessary as change occurs." - Phil Armitage, Senior Partner at Max Fordham

It's great to be part of a collective intelligence ensuring our hospitals continue to improve, and 'actively support the sick, the well and everyone in between, opening its arms to the community and rebuilding the faith in its ability to give love and care'.