Willmott Dixon aims to provide a pointer to achieving low carbon healthcare facilities with its £17 million contract to design and build the UK’s first BREEAM ‘outstanding’ Primary Care Centre.

Health facilities are traditionally high consumers of fossil fuel energy, so Willmott Dixon and Sunderland Teaching Primary Care Trust wanted to demonstrate how it is possible to create a highly energy efficient community health facility in Houghton-le-Spring in Sunderland.

The super ‘green’ Primary Care Centre uses renewable energy from 20 square metres of solar thermal panels, 300 square metres of photovoltaic panels and a ground source heat pump supplying natural heat from the ground to the entire building. This will drastically reduce its carbon emissions and provide lower running costs.

A further innovation is the E-stack ventilation system. This utilises a 1m wide 'thermal wall' that runs through the middle of the building which, together with a concrete plenum at its base, keeps fresh air coming into the building at a constant temperature by using its thermal mass. The wall also incorporates chimneys that extract air to roof level via low powered fans.

Further features include electric car plug in points in the car park, the ability to export redundant heat to the neighbouring Sports Centre to ensure no wastage, plus exposed concrete soffits to provide natural cooling at night.

Willmott Dixon hopes to have the BREEAM ‘outstanding’ score confirmed in March, with the facility due for completion in May 2011.

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

After achieving a BREEAM ‘excellence’ rating on the Blaydon PCC for Gateshead Primary Care Trust, both organisations wanted to achieve the next stage and make history by creating the UK’s highest scoring BREEAM facility.

This is another major sustainable milestone for Willmott Dixon. Last year, its Rogiet School in Wales achieved the highest ever BREEAM score of 78 per cent.