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Local architects help convert stadium into Dragon’s Heart Hospital

Architecture and engineering practice BDP, which has a studio in Cardiff, is helping to convert the Principality Stadium into the Dragon’s Heart Hospital (Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig) as part of the UK’s effort to tackle the coronavirus emergency.

The hospital was officially opened this week (Monday 20th April) by Prince Charles via video link.

Image of the Dragon’s Heart Hospital, courtesy of BDP.

Working under project managers Mott MacDonald, BDP has provided the design and engineering expertise and skills to convert the Principality Stadium into a temporary, up to 2,000-bed emergency hospital for COVID-19 patients in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.

BDP has been collaborating with clinicians, consultants, contractors and the British Army on site to deliver an initial 300 beds so far.

The stadium is different from the other emergency NHS hospitals located in conference centres designed specifically for large-scale turnaround events.  The conversion of the stadium involves new tent structures, repurposing the hospitality suites and using concourse space for wards due to their good line of sight for patient care.

Photo credit: Matthew Horwood

The key to the rapid progress of these types of projects is having a clear concept and a rigorous approach to procurement and construction. To deliver this number of equipped beds in emergency conditions requires all teams to make rapid decisions so design and construction can take place in parallel.  The design and engineering teams from BDP are working side by side with contractors, the Welsh Rugby Union and Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, which is enabling the decision-making process to be accelerated and streamlined.

BDP is helping the UK’s national effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic with a key role in the unprecedented challenge of helping convert large event venues into emergency hospitals. The NHS Nightingale instruction manual published by BDP sets out its fit-out strategies and processes used at ExCel Centre in London and is providing invaluable guidance for the construction of other locations in the UK and globally.

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As well as Cardiff, BDP is involved in the creation of temporary hospitals in Bristol, Harrogate, Birmingham and Manchester.

BDP Principal Nick Fairham, whose team is working closely with consultants, specialists and contractors from other organisations, describes it as: “A high pressure, fast-paced environment where everyone is working collaboratively to deliver this vital facility”.

“Delivering emergency hospital facilities in stadiums and exhibition centres is unprecedented, so we have been drawing on our previous experience of designing large-scale healthcare facilities like Grange University Hospital in Wales which is to open a year earlier than scheduled to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are working closely with the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board to ensure that every bed can be fitted with all the equipment required to treat Covid-19 patients and be cared for by dedicated staff in full PPE equipment.  However, what makes the Dragon’s Heart Hospital so distinct from previous healthcare projects, is the scale, timeframe and purpose of this emergency facility.”

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