Willmott Dixon’s Primary Care Centre in Houghton-le-Spring has been confirmed by BRE Global as the first healthcare building to achieve BREEAM Outstanding at ‘post construction’ stage with a score of 85.31%.

Built in partnership with Sunderland Teaching Primary Care Trust, the 5,224m2 facility greatly exceeded the Department of Health’s requirement to achieve BREEAM Excellent for new buildings.

Willmott Dixon was assisted by its in-house sustainability business Re-Thinking to deliver on the client’s BREEAM Outstanding ambitions, along with architects P+HS. John Frankiewicz, CEO of Willmott Dixon Capital Works says, “The health sector consumes vast amounts of energy as it’s a people intensive business requiring high-tech equipment that’s constantly in operation. This centre shows just what can be achieved to reduce running costs and will be a blueprint for future health projects around the country.”

The centre’s projected to see a 33% reduction in CO2 emissions by using technologies such as:

• 12.5 square metres of solar thermal panels to heat water
• 350 square metres of photovoltaic panels to generate electricity
• 18m high wind turbine
• ground source heat pumps supply natural heat from the ground to the entire building
• exporting excess heat to the neighbouring sports centre
• exposed concrete soffits which are naturally cooled at night using an innovative solution in line with infection control requirements
• electric car plug in points in the car park
• a rainwater harvesting system to meet WC flushing demand.

A further innovation is the ventilation system designed by Breathing Buildings. This utilises a 1m wide 'thermal wall' that runs through the middle of the building which, together with a concrete plenum at its base, provides fresh air at a constant temperature by using its thermal mass. The wall is divided into 49 separate chimneys which feed individual rooms on one side and a large central atrium on the other via low powered fans.

Other partners involved include Mott MacDonald as M&E engineers, Cundall as structural engineer, Southern Green as landscape architect and LJJ as building services contractor.

The centre is the focal point for community health, providing a minor injuries unit, diagnostic facilities, a 24 bed rehabilitation unit, accommodation for retinal screening, outpatient clinics and healthy living services and wellness studio and café. It is the fourth such facility in Sunderland offering a wide range of health services in community settings.

Willmott Dixon has secured over £100 million of healthcare work since the summer and one of the big issues is energy efficiency. This project provides important learning for the whole industry.