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Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy

Patients and staff at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Fife’s largest hospital are enjoying connecting with nature in a new, dedicated roof garden.

Connecting with nature

Located on the first floor in Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy, ICU patients previously had to be wheeled in their beds to a lift and through the hospital, to access any green space and fresh air.

Previously, studies have proven an increased speed of recovery of patients when they had access to the outdoors and to greenery. Aware of research findings, hospital management wanted to make use of a roof space adjacent to the ICU for a garden, to provide easy access to the outdoors for some of the sickest patients in the wards. It would also create a tranquil spot for staff to de-stress.

Equans, who provide the facilities management for Victoria Hospital, approached GP Plantscape to assist.

The brief

Our brief was to create a garden where patients could benefit from a connection to nature to improve recovery and provide a space for staff to have some downtime. Plants native to Scotland were to be incorporated where possible.

Garden designer, Cecily Leeuwenberg, sketched a design for the triangular area with a perimeter of 128m and area of 522m2. The design comprised, three feature trees at the points of the triangles, plants surrounding the skylights and a green wall. Pebbles also had to be removed and additional paving added to allow beds to be wheeled into the garden. Finally seating areas, around the three feature trees and front and centre, looking out over the hospital grounds were added. After we conducted an in-depth feasibility study a final solution was agreed based on this design utilising materials and products which met both design and safety considerations.

Preparation and construction

To avoid trailing through the hospital while restrictions remained after COVID-19 all the materials had to be hoisted onto the roof before the work began. A drop off area was identified on the ground for the materials and scaffolding with stairs to access the roof and an unloading platform erected.

The garden

Multi stem birch trees were specified for strength on what is a rather windy site.  Providing a striking feature and canopy for seating in the summer, the deciduous trees provide less resistance in the windier, autumn months.

The roof structure features two large skylights which require access for repair and maintenance. The whole project therefore is comprised of freestanding containerised planters, for easy manoeuvrability and so as not to compromise the roof membrane. The containers, in shades of grey and cream, were installed in a variety of shapes and sizes. The choice of planting for the containers included plants of varying heights and shapes to create variety and flow in the garden. Much consideration was given to including perennial plants that would flower in the summer when patients and staff are most likely to be using the garden. These included crocosmia, eryngium, enthemis and primula.

A green wall running the length of the garden creates a stunning backdrop.

Now, ICU patients, their visitors and staff have easy access to a private outdoor space.

“The garden has been a huge boost to morale for staff.  Having a private and tranquil space to enjoy fresh air during a break has been incredibly uplifting especially with the ongoing requirements for facemasks inside.  Our patients are now getting access to the outdoors more frequently as the garden is private and offers a range of sensory experiences which helps to promote sleep and recovery. We are delighted with the finished result.” Dr Lucy Hogg, Consultant ICU & Anaesthesia.

Benefits of the ICU roof garden

A huge advantage is the proximity of the garden to the ICU. If a patient’s condition deteriorates whilst outside a rapid return to the ward is possible.

Staff working in a highly stressful environment find a huge benefit in being able to pop out on the roof for a coffee amongst the plants and staff in the adjacent tower block also benefit from the view of the garden.

Finally, families can also now coordinate visits to coincide with garden time, providing a much more enjoyable experience for all.

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Nikki Thng, CEO & Founder , Class for Kids
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