Architect presents a laundry list of sick children hospital failings
July 29 2019
A retired architect involved in the ‘reference’ design for a new children’s hospital for Edinburgh has intervened in the growing fiasco surrounding its delayed opening by offering to present a list of possible design defects to health secretary Jeane Freeman.
Robert Menzies claims that the flagship project was doomed from the off as a result of political pressures to avoid delays, which led to a litany of design failings which may have fed through to the finished build; including lifts which insufficient to ferry patients with equipment, classroom doors to narrow to push beds through and the loss of a one-way mirror in a child protection suite to a corridor.
There are fears these known issues may just represent the tip of a far bigger iceberg however with further checks now being carried out to the buildings ventilation, water and drainage systems.
Speaking to The Scotsman Menzies said: “The orthopaedic team wanted a lift that was bigger than the normal bed lift because, when you’ve got a patient with attachments, it’s difficult getting them in and out of a lift, so I told the lead architect three times we needed at least one bigger lift but it was never incorporated. It got to the point where I drew up a lift lobby layout with the big oversize lift and said, ‘That’s what they want,’ but they came back and said no, it was too late, it couldn’t be accommodated.
“Looking at the latest plans, it’s just a standard bed lift. I only have the drawings that went to planning. They may have caught it, but I doubt it.”
Menzies says he raised similar objections to the issue of too narrow doors and loss of the two-way mirror says he was overruled by superiors each time to stick rigidly with the ‘reference’ design without adding delay.
The whistleblower added: “The comment I got back was, ‘We’re not interested in betterment, we’re interested in compliance’. They didn’t want any departure from reference design but they were agreeing our layout was better.”
As recently as 2 July the health board had trumpeted that the HLM-designed hospital was mere ‘days away’ from moving into the Little France facility from 9 July - but was forced to delay this indefinitely just two days later after the ventilation system was found to have failed national standards.
The problems mirror similar issues at a new ‘super hospital’ in Govan, Glasgow, where Freeman was forced to launch another design review over similar failures of its closed ventilation system.
We can all suggest ways of making other peoples buildings better – and show me a health building that couldn’t be improved by being more spacious or having better facilities. But sitting on the sidelines and compiling a list, presenting it to the Health Secretary and presumably publicising this, does not strike me as a particularly helpful or selfless move.
If you have had previous involvement in the early stages of a job it can be hard to bite your tongue as it moves forward, but unless you are actually part of the project team you don’t know how budget, timescale and brief dictated the end result.
With all due respect to Mr Menzies, anybody in practice who has had a ‘retired architect’ pop up to comment on a live project will know the sad sinking feeling that their contribution generates.
Is this the same Mr Menzies that couldn't leave the QEUH alone?!
I think someone needs to enjoy retirement and get a hobby.
As #2 says, if your not directly involved and don't know the current status of a project - keep schtump!!
boo-effing-who. This Menzies character should do something more productive, like growing tomatoes
These are the only publicly available drawings of what has been built. (As built and building control drawings are not normally available for security reasons). I have discussed these drawings with the then lead architect as he is a personal friend. He told me the reference design didn't work but they were advised they would be marked down if they changed it. We decided we could not simply copy mistakes and in so doing produce a sub-standard health facility so we changed the layouts to comply with national standards. We were correspondingly marked down. There was NOBODY who thought it was a good layout. And by the way, I have refused to appear on BBC, STV, and Good Morning Scotland re the QEUH so wrong there as well ! The letter I wrote was turned into an article. In it I merely said that if the Health Secretary was wanting a check on all breaches of national standards then she was in for a shock. I offered to make a list of the elements I know about to illustrate the scale of the problem.
It’s a shame that your ideal layout was marked down, but good to see you’re not bitter about it.
You can view the planning drawings on-line at the Council's website. Check out the first floor OPD plan with a large column directly in front of the doors to a consulting/exam room but INSIDE the room. Or how about the Plastics Dressing Unit with only one way in or out and no second means of escape. Scottish architecture at its best ??? Our layout never claimed to be "ideal" but simply avoided making such fundamental design errors.
In contacting the press and using phrases like
“I told the lead architect three times we needed at least one lift that’s bigger but it was never incorporated” and “The architect refused to change it despite my instruction to do so. I was overruled from above on the grounds that I was adding delay”
you have taken a purposefully inflammatory approach, and one that is derogatory to those involved in the project (who one assumes are trying their best within the framework).
Even if your intentions are genuinely noble, it unfortunately comes across as splenetic stirring. I would be genuinely interested to know what good you expect to come of this approach?
Post your comments
Back to July 2019
Like us on Facebook
Become a fan and share
I struggle to see how any of his comments are helpful or substantiated. Perhaps a refresher on the ARB code is also in order.
I'm sure the BBC will be quick to call him if good old Dunlop isn't available though!