Where will the National Rehabilitation Centre be and what will it look like?
The site, its character and planning
The NRC will be located within the Stanford Hall Rehabilitation Estate (SHRE) about 400 metres away from the new Defence facility.
The estate lies approximately 5 km northeast of Loughborough and is located at the southern tip of the county of Nottinghamshire, on the border with Leicestershire.
It is easy to get to via public or private transport - a bus route passes immediately alongside the site with connections to Nottingham and Loughborough every 20 minutes and the site is well-served by the local and strategic road network.
The A6006 (Melton Road) runs along the northern boundary of the estate which is approximately a 20-minute drive from the M1. The estate is about 10 minutes’ drive from Loughborough Railway Station and is about 20 minutes from East Midlands Airport.
The SHRE at 360 acres has the capacity to house both the now operational Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) and the future NRC within its boundaries. This co-location will be vital in promoting the transfer and sharing of knowledge.
The buildings and facilities are ultimately the enablers of bespoke clinical treatment for patients together with the development and sharing of knowledge and clinical expertise. The buildings – and the estate as a whole – facilitate the ‘centre of excellence’ opportunity which is at the heart of the overall DNRC concept.
Equally important is the fact that the site is large enough to be able to accommodate all the planned development without diminishing the character of the open parkland setting.
Both developments have been designed within a overall masterplan for the entire site from 2013 when detailed planning was granted for the Defence facility and outline planning for the complementary National facility (converted to detailed permission in late 2018). However, the Defence facility (the DMRC) has been developed first as it is the catalyst for what follows in terms an NHS establishment. It was always envisaged that, with the DMRC in place, the NRC could benefit by sharing knowledge, expertise and some specialist facilities (under terms agreed with Defence Medical Services) when it also became operational.
The NRC is to be located on the north west side of the estate. The NRC site is surrounded by woodland on three sides. To the south, open parkland slopes gently down towards dense woodland, giving both near and far views of natural scenery providing premium views and open space.
The NRC site is 400 metres from the DMRC which is on the eastern side of the estate and, as a Defence establishment, within a secure perimeter. The two facilities are connected internally by a metalled road across the parkland.
Access to the NRC site will be from the Melton Road (A6006) located to the north of the site. A new access road will serve the NRC. The woodland between the site and road will screen views to/from the site.
The SHRE provides a mature and tranquil landscape setting to support the holistic healing processes of rehabilitation, whilst being sufficiently close to an urban centre to ensure that patients do not feel remote.
A range of specialist rehab facilities are already in place across the estate, including: walking tracks, hand cycle trails, trim trails, running paths, and sports grounds etc – hence the name Stanford Hall Rehabilitation Estate.
In recent years, much medical research has provided evidence for the links between the importance of views and access to nature in improving recovery rates and clinical outcomes, reducing reliance on pain medication and generally improving both patient and staff wellbeing.
The detailed planning consent now in place for the NRC is valid for seven years from November 2018.
The design has followed precedent from worldwide, exemplary rehabilitation facilities, reflecting best practice in 21st century healthcare design. It embodies a modern and contemporary feel.
The building is made up a series of ‘bars’ running north to south that will house treatment and associated spaces. The bars are linked by a main communication spine, which will form a ‘High Street’, running through the facility, designed to provide circulation and inter-departmental communications space as well as incorporating a number of different amenities such as the communal dining areas, reception and waiting facilities and space for formal and informal therapy and vocational activities. There is further accommodation above the high street running East to West which will house wards, administrative, education and training spaces.
The key design drivers informing the design are highlighted below:
1. Flexible and functional space
The layout has been planned to accommodate clinical, research, education and training activities and all necessary support functions, whilst being sufficiently ‘loose fit’ and flexible to allow internal modifications as the building’s requirements are further developed.
2. Natural light and views
The building and garden court spaces open out to the broader parkland landscape, providing views and encouraging access to promote physical activity and therapeutic rehabilitation.
The areas between the bars will benefit from floor to ceiling glazing, allowing a sense of space and landscape to flow through the building and connect it to its surroundings. The design of the upper floors has been considered to allow all patient bedrooms to have access to the expansive views across the parkland.
3. Putting nature at the heart of the building
The areas between the bars creates a series of small gardens throughout the building, providing connection to nature within every part of the building. These areas also offer a range of outdoor spaces for dining, seating, relaxation or therapy.
The landscape design is based on the concept of the ‘healing landscape’ where contact with nature improves clinical outcomes. As a result, the design of the NRC seeks to capitalise on its beautiful natural setting of the SHRE.
4. Creating a sustainable building
Natural light and ventilation will be maximised by keeping the building depths to a minimum. This in turn will reduce the reliance on mechanical heating and cooling systems which will reduce power usage. The incorporation of roof-mounted solar panels will generate power for the facility. Green roofs over the building’s ‘bars’ will improve air quality, provide insulation and manage water run-off during heavy downpours.
5. Materials and finishes
Contemporary materials and finishes that relate to the local context have been used throughout the building. The material that the building’s ‘bars’ are to be clad in is reminiscent of the natural local blue lias stone – a heavy ‘earthy’ material. The upper floors spanning over the ‘bars’ will be clad in a more modern lightweight material, with some highlights of colour.
6. Softening the visual impact
The upper floors follow a very subtle fluctuating line in order to soften the visual impact of an otherwise large building in open countryside. This has the added benefit of avoiding long, straight corridors, which would make the space feel rather ‘institutional’ for patients who in some cases could be living here for several months.