Construction of a new £15 million Care and Rehabilitation Centre for Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People (QEF) in Leatherhead, Surrey has reached completion with the new facility opening to clients last month. LOM architecture and design and contractor Buxton have delivered residential accommodation for a neuro rehabilitation service that fosters a strong connection with its surrounding woodland landscape.
The new centre will enable QEF to provide expert, multidisciplinary neuro rehabilitation for people with neurological conditions such as acquired brain injuries, stroke, neurological illness or incomplete spinal injuries, in a modern, comfortable environment. The 4,000sqm building contains 48 ensuite bedrooms, a fully accessible physiotherapy gym, therapy rooms and recreation areas, dining and social spaces.
Demand for QEF’s services has grown substantially in recent years and delivery of the new centre will support the charity’s growth, as it builds capacity to meet the complex needs of its clients. The charity currently supports approximately 6,000 people per year across the UK and has been based at its Woodlands Road campus in Leatherhead from the 1930s.
LOM developed a site masterplan to consolidate their real estate requirements into a more sustainable, connected and purpose-built centre, and bring together QEF’s expert, multidisciplinary teams under one roof. Planning permission was secured in September 2015 and construction of the Care and Rehabilitation Centre started on site in June 2018, with a brief to design the new building to evoke a sense of ‘home’ and make the most of its greenbelt, woodland setting.
The two-storey, ‘Y’ shaped building has a pitched roof and is configured around a green quad and a more private client’s garden at the rear. It features a palette of traditional domestic building materials – brick, clay tile and timber – to reference local vernacular architecture and give a non-institutional appearance. The red clay tiles reflect the tones of the adjacent Leatherhead Court, QEF’s head office.
The quad is flanked by an external cloister providing a sheltered walkway around its perimeter. Double height, Normandy grey brick piers are laid in a distinctive `hit and miss` arrangement to create dappled shade. These reveal glimpses of cedar cladding which adds warmth to the facades.
Large expanses of glazing frame views of the landscape and foster a connection with the natural environment. All the bedrooms look out over green spacesand key spaces such as the two dining areas are positioned with views across the quad towards the trees.
The building is designed to achieve a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ sustainability rating. It features passive ventilation ‘chimneys’ that allow the spaces to breathe; when CO2 levels rise, the chimney’s louvres automatically open to purge the space. To minimise its carbon footprint and reduce running costs, stringent air tightness and insulation standards have been met to minimise heat loss through the building fabric. There are also 230 photovoltaic panels on the roof which will generate over 56,000 kWh of energy for QEF.
Client’s bedrooms wrap around the private garden and connect to shared recreation, dining and social spaces. Mindful of the number of wheelchair users, circulation routes are generous and open out into communal areas. Therapy rooms are separated from the residential accommodation to create distinct ‘rest’ and ‘work’ environments and facilitate out-patient access to therapy areas. The 48 bedrooms are all ensuite and contain assistive technology to give clients greater control over their personal environments through the use of voice activation to assist with opening and closing of blinds or turning the TV on and off without support.
Karen Deacon, QEF’s chief executive, said: “Opening the Care and Rehabilitation Centre marks a significant milestone for QEF; this is our first purpose built facility in our 85 year history and our facilities now match the expertise of our multi-disciplinary teams. We will be able to support many more people with acquired brain injuries, neurological illness or incomplete spinal cord injuries; enabling each person to rebuild their lives and maximise their independence. The modern and homely environment of the Care and Rehabilitation Centre has been designed specifically to meet the needs of clients and it is exciting to see our teams making full use of the centre and the difference this is already making to peoples’ lives.”
Richard Hutchinson, director of LOM architecture and design, said: “Creating a ‘homely’ experience for clients and maximising the views of the surrounding ancient woodland were key design drivers for QEF’s new Care and Rehabilitation Centre. The building’s vernacular form is intended to invoke a domestic setting and large expanses of glazing help to bring light and views of its surrounding natural setting inside. We worked closely with QEF to carefully balance the clinical and technical requirements that will enable them to maintain the highest standards of care with the need to create a place that feels welcoming and comfortable for QEF’s clients.”
Therapy and accommodation facilities at the Care and Rehabilitation Centre opened in July to neuro rehabilitation clients. The current pandemic has had a significant and unpredictable impact on QEF’s finances, and as a result only the ground floor of this centre is currently open. QEF is currently fundraising to finish equipping the first floor, so that the service can expand and support more clients in need of their expertise. QEF’s Survive and Thrive Appeal launched in June to support the charity’s ongoing operations throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, so it can continue to enable disabled people to thrive.