Altro solution brings life to design-led Hull birth centre

A complete floors and walls solution from Altro has been used to create a relaxing, stylish and home from home environment for mums-to-be in a new birth centre at Hull Women and Children’s Hospital.

The new midwife-led Fatima Allam Birth Centre has been designed to meet the needs of women who want a more natural childbirth experience. It comprises three birthing rooms, each individually designed to create a homely and relaxed feel in beautiful surroundings, while also providing a safe, hygienic environment.

The rooms feature a birthing bed, birthing pool, ensuite bathroom and additional equipment, which is cleverly concealed within hidden wall panelling.

The design vision for the Fatima Allam Birth Centre was to create an environment that looked entirely non-clinical, a home from home for mums-to-be; relaxing, calm, very contemporary in its design and a tranquil haven in which to experience this life-changing event.

Andrew Ledger, contracts manager for Apleona, which provides facilities management for the building, oversaw the new construction and was part of the team that devised the overall concept of the birth centre.

“We had a very specific idea of what we wanted the centre to look like, and how we wanted it to function,” Andrew says. “As a midwife-led unit, a relaxed and homely atmosphere was essential, however a priority was of course infection control, hygiene, durability and quality.

“We specified Altro floors and walls from the start because we are using these products elsewhere in the hospital with a great deal of success. They meet all our clinical hygiene and infection control needs, while also offering a superb range of colours and textures, which makes them ideal for creating a modern and stylish environment.

“The quality and durability of Altro is a major factor too because, as a PFI project, the long-term cost is under close scrutiny.

Professional artist and designer Adele Howitt, from Studio Eleven Gallery & Workshop in Hull, won a commission from the hospital to design the interior concept for the new birth centre. She provided various colour ways, materials, and themes, to inspire the team. The colour palette was agreed and a range of approved products to work with, including Altro floors and walls.

“Choosing the colour scheme for the birth unit was a team effort between myself, the hospital midwifery team, and Mrs Fatima Allam herself, whose husband generously donated funds towards the unit.

“Once we had decided on colours, we worked closely with Altro to look at the specific products that would meet our brief. They were very hands-on, with technical guidance and information, plenty of new ideas, and suggesting products we hadn’t previously considered. They completely understood our practical and aesthetic needs.”

Adele says: “This was something very different, very special. Childbirth is such a major life event and research has shown that the environment in which a woman gives birth can have a profound effect on the anxiety or fear she may experience. A hospital can be a very stressful environment at such a key time in a person’s life and can lead to feelings of loss of control.

“I wanted each of the birthing rooms in the new centre to have its own individual style, personality, textures and colours, with the feel of a chic boutique hotel. But I chose an overall theme to link them, which was flowers of Egyptian mythology, one for each room — Lotus, Persea and Jasmine.

“Rather than hanging pictures on the walls, I wanted to create more profound artistic design features in the birth and shower rooms so I used Altro Whiterock Digiclad to create statement walls from floor to ceiling. This is a fantastic product for design-led projects because you can print any image or photograph onto it, and the quality is superb.”

Altro Whiterock Digiclad™ is ideal for creating the right impression with a bespoke design on your wall. From a calming coastal landscape in a hospital ward to a bold company logo in a reception area, the only limit is your imagination. Altro Whiterock Digiclad is created by reproducing a photographic image or vector art on to Altro Whiterock wall sheet, with consistent, photographic quality. Hard-coat technology provides scratch-resistant properties for added surface protection, making Altro Whiterock Digiclad ideal for areas where durability is important.

Adele chose Altro Whiterock Satins™ for the shower rooms. She says “It has some wonderful shades, and the subtle, sheer texture is very stylish.”

Altro Whiterock Satins is a versatile and sophisticated hygienic walls system available in a range of solid, decorative, satin shades – from soothing and healing through to bright and energetic. It provides all the impact resistance and hygiene you would expect from Altro Whiterock, with a stain-resistant, wipe-clean surface.

Adele continues: “These walls products enabled me to create some exciting and innovative designs for each room and gave me enormous scope to create the look and feel I wanted of stylish calm, individual strength and beauty, without having to compromise.

“The Lotus room has a beach theme, with grey painted walls. Here I used Altro Whiterock Digiclad on three statement walls with a stylised image of enlarged grains of sand. In the Lotus shower room, I chose an image of a wave on one wall, and on the three remaining walls Altro Whiterock Satins in Cream.

“Persea has a forest theme, and for this room I chose a monochrome wood grain image for the Altro Whiterock Digiclad walls. In the shower room, the wall sheet depicts pebbles.

“The Jasmine suite is all about meadows. The wall sheet features beautiful pastel lilac, green and cream wild flowers, while the shower room has a lovely pale lilac called Malva for the Whiterock Satins walls, and an image of shifting grey sand.

“I also designed some panels for the doors in the centre using Altro Whiterock Digiclad, which matched the corridor wallpaper of Lotus, Persea and Jasmine flower heads on a pale blue background.”

Flooring for the birth centre was key to creating the homely, non-clinical feel. Andrew Ledger and the project team wanted natural, warm, wood-effect flooring and chose Altro Wood™ for the three bedrooms and corridors.

Andrew and his team also specified a way-finding system for the new centre to help those with partial sight and dementia. The system comprises a border of Altro WalkwayTM 20 safety flooring in black fitted around the edge of all the floors in the bedrooms and corridors.

Andrew says: “This system is very effective and it also helps to limit damage from trolleys and medical equipment because it encourages people away from the walls. We are rolling it out for all our new builds.

“Wet areas in clinical environments need to be very safe underfoot, so we chose Altro Pisces safety flooring for both the shower rooms and around the birthing pool. This flooring performs superbly in both wet or dry conditions, and with bare feet or shoes, so it’s perfect for keeping both patients and staff safe. Altro Pisces also looks good enough to work within our design themes and there are some great colours.”

Altro Pisces™ performs whether wet or dry, in shoes or barefoot, and offers 16 soft-look shades. The result is the consistent, soft appearance that you would want from domestic interiors, with the lifetime sustained slip resistance you expect from Altro safety flooring.

The flooring was installed in the Fatima Allam Birth Centre by Floorcovers UK. Partner Phil Morris said: “We have installed a great deal of Altro flooring in the hospital over the years, so we were delighted that it was specified for this new birth unit. For quality and reliability Altro is the best, and they are a pleasure to work with.

“The installation was quite a challenge because we were working in a very delicate and sensitive area right next to the live maternity ward and neonatal intensive care unit. We had to carry all our materials through the ward where babies were being born every day during our four-week working schedule.

“This meant we had to be incredibly mindful of what was going on around us, take all dust and rubbish out in sealed containers, and work as quietly and professionally as possible to minimise the impact on mothers and babies. It was a wonderful experience, though, to hear babies being born every day.”

The Altro wall sheet was fitted by Richardson Claddings. Owner Joe Richardson comments: “The majority of work we do is in healthcare and we install a lot of Altro Whiterock, so we are accustomed to working in sensitive clinical areas, and in this hospital too.

“The beauty of the Altro walls system is that it is so quiet, easy and clean to install. Altro sends the sheets to us ready-cut, which means minimal cutting or shaping on site.

“So we were able to work very quickly and quietly around the live ward. All the on-site trades worked closely with the hospital and we had a very tight and closely monitored works programme. The hospital staff were very helpful and understood all our challenges.”

The project’s main contractor was CTS Shopfitting Ltd. Account manager Adrian Cartwright said: “This was a very exciting design-led project, which required a great deal of co-operation from everyone. The sensitive nature of the build, plus the proximity of the works to the wards meant it was essential to work as quietly, cleanly and quickly as possible to cause minimal disruption. A very successful result and a fantastic facility.”

Andrew Ledger says: “The new centre has been a huge success. From a design point of view, it looks fantastic and completely meets the brief we set out. The compliments and feedback we have received from everyone who has been here have been tremendous.

“We get a lot of medical professionals visiting from around the world and they say the centre is the best of its kind they have seen anywhere, which is a wonderful endorsement and makes us very proud of what we have achieved.

“Most importantly, the mothers who have given birth here are thrilled with it too, and we have received thousands of positive comments. There really isn’t a more beautiful or peaceful place to give birth. For the midwives, it’s a dream come true; a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere they love to work in, where they can control the environment and provide a very special level of care.

“The Altro floors and walls solution is key to the overall look, form and function of the birth unit. It looks superb and very striking. Adele has used the products very effectively to create schemes and designs that are both subtle and powerful.

“From a more practical angle, the Altro wall sheet provides a tough, hardwearing surface. We are very impressed that in the shower rooms the walling overlaps the flooring to prevent water ingress, which would prove very expensive to rectify. After each birth, the rooms are completely disinfected and cleaned, and the Altro floors and walls are proving very easy to maintain.

“We are delighted with this amazing facility. It’s very much a team effort, everyone from the clinical team to the suppliers, designer and installers understood what we wanted to create and worked together to bring the vision to life.”