Timber system commissioned for Sunderland mental health unit


Natural wood construction creates therapeutic environment for Ryhope Hospital patients

Stewart Milne Timber Systems has been commissioned to supply external walls for Ryhope Hospital, a state-of-the-art mental health facility being built in Sunderland.

The 122-bed hospital has been designed by Medical Architecture on behalf of Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and is being developed by Laing O’Rourke under the NHS Procure21 partnership.

Designed to create a healing non-clinical environment for patients, the £40m building will feature pre-insulated closed-panel external timber walls with factory fitted windows. Pre-insulated roof cassettes manufactured by Stewart Milne Timber Systems will also be delivered to the site and pre-tiled on jigs before the development is completed. The scaffoldless build of the timber frame will be completed using Mantis Cranes and mobile elevating work platforms, which will minimise health and safety risk and reduce costs.

Once completed, the hospital will house six 18-bed wards for urgent care assessment and treatment, elderly patients, and rehabilitation services; and a 14-bed psychiatric intensive care unit. An existing 15-bed unit on the site will also be retained and a new central facilities hub and dedicated facilities management building will accommodate estates, facilities and information technology services.

Alex Goodfellow, group managing director at Stewart Milne Timber Systems, said: “It is incredibly important that healthcare projects are delivered on time, as delays can have major implications for patients and medical provision in the community. Due to the level of offsite construction employed with timber frame, build time is dramatically reduced compared to other materials. Quality is also improved through factory-controlled manufacture and waste is reduced, which in turn saves money.”

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The hospital forms part of a wider scheme known as Providing Improved Mental Health and Learning Disability Environments (PRIDE) developed by Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust. The design concept is inspired by the name of the site, Ryhope, which describes a riven valley cutting sharply through the landscape to the sea. The layout aims to foster a site-wide sense of community and relaxation, with inpatient wards offering long views to the coast and surrounding landscape.