Architect: Kahler Slater, Inc. and CIAP Architects
Owner: NUH Medical Centre
Contractor: Penta Ocean Singapore
At National University Hospital Singapore, a campus gateway building is shaped by three significant challenges/drivers:
· A site with multiple, complex limitations
· A diverse mix of building uses with strict technical requirements
· Achieving the nation’s highest sustainability award in an intense tropical environment
Open parcels are at a premium in the densely populated tropical city-state of Singapore. This was no different for the National University Health System (NUHS). An existing 900 bed teaching hospital and outpatient services covered 90% of their existing 16 Hectare campus which needed to modernize and expand. This drove the need to transform an expansive horizontal campus to an efficient high rise campus. The NUH Medical Centre was one of the first projects implemented in the masterplan.
The owner’s program consisted of a mixed-use development with combined total area of 88,000m2 (947,000sqft). Comprised of 60,000m2 of specialty outpatient clinics, the National Cancer Institute of Singapore (NCIS), 10 room outpatient surgery center, integrated research and medical education, 12,000m2 of retail space and 16,000m2 of integrated parking (400 cars).
The broad masterplan challenges were only increased by the site which proved to have many challenges and limitations. The site is oddly shaped, sloped with over 40ft of grade change, bound by major roadways, and has an existing active MRT subway station positioned directly at its center and occupying over 50% of the site area.
The subway station itself proved to be one of the greatest design influencers. The station structure was only designed to carry10 floors. Strict tolerances dictated where structure could be placed near train tunnels and fixed vent structures defined available building footprint shape, setbacks and size. Existing tunnels required intensive monitoring to insure deep foundation construction did not create movement or vibration in active train lines. The station serves as the Medical Center’s main entry, and is the primary public transportation hub for the entire medical campus and for the National University of Singapore. Thousands of diverse users commute daily through this campus gateway requiring distinct separations for access and pedestrian movement.
The design solution was a direct response to the many unique and complex site challenges. The NUH Medical Center is a 19 floor, mixed use development requiring a floor area ratio of over 6 times the available site area. Two times the available buildable area was created by spanning the existing subway station with (5) 150 ft long, 26ft high transfer trusses. Solving strict clinical technology requirements led to a unique exterior massing expression. A direct response to vibration concerns from roadways and trains required a unique solution to the typical below grade radiation oncology bunkers. Massive 9 ft. thick concrete encased structures were elevated and expressed 65 ft. above ground to create key clinical adjacencies, and allow cancer patients access to daylight and gardens. The bunker roof expresses the sustainable goals with a landscaped green roof amenity for all to view. Retail spaces immediately adjacent to the subway entry create a vibrant campus gateway and destination.
Singapore has a key national objective to be a “Garden City”. The exterior design is influenced by the intense tropical environment where heat gain must be minimized, daylighting maximized and integrating nature is mandatory. The building orientation with long facades facing north and south minimizes solar heat gain. Sun shading devices on each façade are a direct response to sustainable requirements. This includes the “5th elevation” where every low roof is landscaped to integrate tropical nature. These features ensured the NUH Medical Center would receive Singapore’s highest sustainability award - Greenmark Platinum.
Bold structural moves overcome the extreme limitations of the challenging subway site and maximize area potential where land is premium. The facade’s tropical response controls the sun exposure while helping to express the diverse program. Green roofs and gardens are integrated for sustainability and to enhance the patient experience. The building establishes a clear campus gateway, is a catalyst for transformational change and reinforces the national aspirations of being “the greenest city in the world.”
Photos: Skewed Eye