Tairāwhiti Gisborne Hospital Advanced Mental Health Inpatient Facility and Sustainable Design Approach

An advanced mental health inpatient facility is being built at Gisborne Hospital to replace the existing unsuitable unit. The new facility will support staff in delivering contemporary models of care.

AECOM, as part of a design consortium led by Mode Architects, is providing building services, ICT, security and communications, acoustics consulting, and Environmentally Sustainability Design (ESD) services for the facility.

Co-designing with the community 

A place of healing and transformation, the facility has been designed to create a safe, homely environment using patient-centric approaches and salutogenic design principles. Using a co-design process the project team gathered feedback from those with lived experience: tangata whai ora, carers, whānau, visitors, and staff. Many elements identified throughout the co-design process were carried through to delivery, such as the users’ ability to control their environment with lighting.

Integrating biophilic design for connection to nature and culture

The facility embraces biophilic design principles, which aim to connect patients and staff to the natural environment. The design incorporates kaupapa Māori, using to enable traditional ceremonies.

The acoustic design considers both reverberation time control and acoustic diffusion for these rooms, which have unique noise requirements to maintain acoustic comfort and enable recovery and healing. Careful consideration has been given to cultural features, décor, and materials.

Recovery-focused design

The facility is designed with recovery-focused care as a high priority. It incorporates salutogenic design principles and design elements that support health and well-being, such as circadian rhythm lighting, biophilic materials, visual and auditory privacy, and thermal comfort.

In considering the model of care for this facility, the priority was to create a safe, homely, and secure environment that puts patients first. Using patient-centric approaches, the design includes a strategically placed day room and a semi-open courtyard. Traditional nurse stations are no longer placed in the centre of patient areas, promoting freedom and choice. Simple way-finding and an extensive glazed facade create a clear line of sight and passive surveillance. At the same time, a private courtyard and observation areas in corridors ensure service users feel safe and their privacy is maintained.

Environmentally Sustainable Design

The design team implemented several key sustainability initiatives to meet Te Whatu Ora’s sustainability design guidelines and the New Zealand Carbon Neutral Government Programme, which requires public sector agencies to measure, publicly report, and reduce their emissions by 2025 and offset any they cannot reduce.

Key initiatives included:

Building Envelope – embedding high insulation levels to improve thermal performance and reduce energy consumption.

Zero Energy – all energy is generated on-site with a renewable energy supply. A solar energy system produces enough power annually to operate the building, with excess power being fed back to the main hospital.

Healthy Interior Environment –a mixed-mode ventilation strategy, in the common areas, allows natural ventilation throughout the year, particularly when outside temperatures are more pleasant. Greater ventilation means patients can enjoy the advantages of connecting with natural surroundings, with access to external views and ample natural daylight in at least 75 percent of regularly occupied spaces.

Water Efficiency – reducing potable water use by 50 percent against a reference regional building of a similar type. This was achieved through rainwater harvesting to irrigate gardens and flush toilets (as well as other site needs) and highly efficient fixtures.