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Revolutionary’ £380 m UCLH proton beam facility completed

The new University College Hospital Grafton Way Building, a major new central London healthcare facility incorporating what the project partners dub a ‘revolutionary’ proton beam therapy centre, has been completed.

AECOM was the client’s project manager (NEC contract duties and proton beam therapy equipment installation), specialist risk, and programme manager. Created for University College London Hospital (UCLH), the ‘landmark building’ also includes eight operating theatres, a surgical recovery area, a surgical ward, an imaging centre, a 10-bed critical care unit, and three floors of inpatient haematology wards. AECOM said: “The completion marks the creation of one of Europe's largest dedicated haemato-oncology hospitals, which will provide treatment for those with complex cancers and blood disorders.”

The centrepiece of the £380 million facility is a ‘state-of-the-art’ proton beam therapy centre, only the second of its type in the UK, which will provide treatment for those with complex cancers and blood disorders. The facility will treat 650 people with cancer and benign tumours each year, around a third being children and teenagers. Proton beam therapy delivers highly targeted treatment that pinpoints a tumour while sparing the surrounding tissue, making it particularly beneficial for younger people, as it protects IQ, general growth, and fertility.

The new, 34,600 m2 building is situated in a tight site within the Bloomsbury conservation area, close to two Grade II-listed UCL buildings and London Underground lines. To create the necessary clinical space while respecting protected views and surrounding heritage, the 13-storey building, designed by Scott Tallon Walker Architects in association with Edward Williams Architects, and constructed by Bouygues UK, includes a five-storey, 28-metre-deep basement equivalent in volume to the Royal Albert Hall.

The complex project involved around 3,000 people in its construction, which included the removal of 80,000 cubic metres of earth from the site. The proton beam therapy centre required shielding around the equipment, which includes 44,000 cubic metres of concrete to form walls typically two metres thick, with areas up to five metres, reinforced with approximately 8,000 tonnes of steel.

UCLH Chief Executive, David Probert, said: “I am immensely proud of the Grafton Way Building. Delivering healthcare is the work of people, but well-designed buildings make a huge difference to how effectively this can be achieved. Our new Grafton Way Building overcomes design and build challenges to deliver a comforting environment for patients, alongside the very latest technology and equipment for our staff. This was a complex building programme, made more so with the final stages taking place during the global pandemic, and I congratulate everyone involved.”

AECOM Project director, Sam Danquah, said: “Almost six years ago, I stood on the site of a demolished cinema and hospital at Grafton Way, envisioning how we were going to project manage the build of something larger than the Royal Albert Hall beneath my feet. Little did we know then the challenges that would come our way – from a global pandemic to Brexit – let alone the sheer complexity of constructing a hospital above ground and installing life-changing proton beam therapy equipment below ground. Through problem-solving, strong governance, and project controls, we met an ambitious delivery programme and budget. Seeing UCLH’s vision for a world-class healthcare facility in action brings enormous pride, not just in what the delivery partners achieved through collaboration, but in what the facility can to do transform patient outcomes.”

Fabienne Viala, Chair of Bouygues UK, said: “We favour complex projects where we can add value through our global experience and technical expertise. This new state-of-the-art facility for UCLH is one of the most complex public building projects ever undertaken. Its successful delivery is a result of collaboration, both among Bouygues colleagues, and with UCLH and the wider project team, and it is hugely rewarding to see the first patients beginning their treatment here, highlighting the potential this facility has to transform people’s lives.”

Sheila Carney, director of Scott Tallon Walker Architects, speaking for STW and Edward Williams Architects said: “We are incredibly proud of our team that was responsible for the design and delivery of this landmark building. The pandemic has further emphasised the importance of excellent healthcare for patients in a modern, considered environment designed to benefit the well-being of all users and promote recovery times. The design embraces the principles of direct visual access to natural daylight, nature, and landscape, and maximises the use of natural materials and colour palettes throughout. The huge success of this project is a testament to the dedication, hard work, and determination of a truly remarkable collaborative team and to the vision of UCLH and our successful collaboration with Bouygues UK to deliver this project.”

The project is a result of close collaboration between:

• University College London NHS Foundation Trust (client).

• AECOM, client’s Project Manager (NEC contract duties and PBT equipment installation), Specialist Risk and Programme Manager).

• Bouygues UK (Main contractor).

• Scott Tallon Walker (Lead designer).

• Scott Tallon Walker in association with Edward Williams Architects (Architects)

• CampbellReith (Structural, civil, and geotechnical consultants).

• WSP (Mechanical and electrical engineering consultants).

• UCLH’s advisers also include: BDP, Arup, Curtins, Ridge, Turner and Townsend, and Medical Architecture.

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