Bringing new life to maternity care in Belfast

Belfast Royal Victoria’s new sustainable maternity hospital will provide leading maternal health facilities benefiting women’s health during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period. The facility will support 6,000 births per annum, providing resilience for the Royal Jubilee Maternity Services in Northern Ireland by replacing no longer fit-for-purpose facilities.

AECOM’s design carefully considered each stage of this maternal pathway to provide a positive experience, ensuring women and their babies reach their full potential for health and wellbeing. The 17,000m2 building delivers clinical services, including an Early Pregnancy Unit, Midwifery Led Unit, Delivery Ward, supporting Theatres, Maternity Ward, and Neonatal Intensive Care.

From conceptual design to construction, the design team placed the mother, baby and supporting family members at the forefront of their approach to aid recovery and reduce the length of stays.

The three-storey building is humanistic in scale, being smaller than those adjoining it but still possesses a strong presence through its elevated site position and feature entrance façade. On arrival, a three-storey glazed atrium welcomes patients and visitors, providing clear wayfinding directing patients to pre/postnatal facilities.

Maternity pathways and adjacencies are carefully considered, given sensitivities around the maternal process, with a cocoon-shaped quiet room designed to support bereaved parents and families. Plus, a 10-bed ward located directly above theatres to facilitate the care of high-risk antenatal and postnatal women.

Adaptable building structural grids of 6 metres and slab-to-slab heights in excess of 4.2m futureproof operational service changes provide building resilience.

Inclusive stakeholder engagement included building one-to-one mock-ups of key neonatal spaces at the design stage. This ensured midwives and doctors could confirm the clinical functionality, patient privacy and dignity. Enabling them to understand how the interior design could be implemented to support wellbeing and recovery through a ‘hotel feel’ environment.

The birthing rooms achieve this by providing various options, including birthing pools, medicine balls, ropes, labour stools, etc., empowering women’s birthing choices. Overnight accommodation is integrated, allowing family members to provide support until the neonatal babies are safely discharged.

Architectural full-height patient windows maximise light and views with electronic interstitial blinds, increasing patient comfort by allowing them to adjust the light and view, eliminating overlooking, and further enhancing wellbeing and recovery. Other enhancements include rest/sitting areas and tea points embellished with watercolour illustrations by locally based accomplished artist Anita Jeram to provide a sense of play throughout the building.

Client: Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

Services: Lead architect (in partnership with Isherwood + Ellis), medical planning, civil and structural engineering, landscape architecture, BREEAM