Communication - the key to hospital refurbishments

Novus workers fixing hospital interior wall

Few environments present as many challenges to working tradespeople as hospitals. But like all busy public buildings, hospitals require refurbishments and upgrades on a regular basis to keep their wards and corridors safe, functional and visually pleasing, while also adapting to meet changing needs of patients and staff. In a recent article for Healthcare, Design and Management magazine, our contracts manager Jason Bowen explained how important effective communication is when working within the healthcare sector.

More often than not, hospital upgrades need to be carried out while the healthcare facility in question remains in use, which makes the management absolutely vital. To avoid unnecessary disturbance and cost, both hospitals and maintenance firms must take responsibility for understanding the most effective approaches to this complex challenge and balancing the needs of the hospital and its staff with the demands of the project.

Novus recently completed works to upgrade the fertility unit at Birmingham Women’s Hospital as part of an extensive refurbishment covering a number of different areas at the hospital over several years.

The project, which took place over a four-week period, involved the full refurbishment of 14 rooms at the fertility unit, including the main reception area, all while the unit remained in use. Novus was assigned the task of delivering the upgrades, but not before the full scope of the project and its implications were explored thoroughly with hospital staff.

At the very outset, hospital staff explained the exact expectations of the project and what they hoped would be achieved as a result. The Novus team worked with hospital staff on these aims and suggested some alternative routes to achieving key outcomes with the least disruption possible to staff, patients and visitors.

This was just the first stage and once complete, the team then met with the head matron on the fertility unit, who was able to outline the most urgent needs of the staff on the unit and the general public who use it every day.

This information gathering stage is key to any hospital project, and the approach to communications with management and key staff members sets the tone for the project and informs the creation of an appropriate programme of work. However, it is vital that any programme of work remains flexible, with wriggle room built in to accommodate the outcomes of further project meetings.

The importance of the communication between the project team and the head matron cannot be overstated. Once the programme of work was put together, including the cost, there followed regular meetings and the programme was continually revised due to the constant changes in the live hospital environment.

There was no pause in the fertility unit’s activity during any period of the works, and ultimately, if we failed to plan properly for every potential outcome, the risk was a denial of essential treatment to the people who needed it.

Another way in which hospital refurbishments can be managed effectively without the need to close off entire areas for a prolonged period is to adopt a rolling programme of works. In such cases the team would agree to work on just one ward within a unit at a time, leaving the remaining wards live whenever work was being carried out.

While working on another project, Novus worked on a bi-weekly basis to give hospital staff sufficient breaks from the unavoidable disruption to their daily tasks.

Effective planning and continuous project meetings ensured that there was never any need for members of the Novus team to come into contact or liaise with the general public. Works were scheduled for the least busy times of day as far as possible, and whenever work was being carried out the public were informed in advance.

The fertility unit at the hospital benefits from having two separate entrances, and the work was carefully coordinated to ensure that hospital patients and visitors were able to access the unit without encountering any dust, noise or disturbance.

By taking a painstaking approach to planning and by making clear communication the absolute top priority, hospitals and their maintenance firms can mitigate many of the problems that absorb time and value out of a refurbishment project.

Even in the most sensitive of medical environments, it is possible to deliver outstanding building and decoration works without jeopardising the vital services provided by UK hospitals.

fire door maintenance


This week marks the eighth annual Fire Door Safety Week, where those across the construction and built environment industries come together to raise awareness of the critical role of fire doors and the importance of their correct installation and maintenance. Why do we need fire doors? Fire doors play a crucial role as a first line of defence against fire and smoke in containing their spread is vital. Fire doors protect evacuation points so that building occupants can safely leave the building. They also protect the contents of the building to mitigate the financial and asset loss associated with fire damage. Furthermore, fire doors afford greater time to firefighters in successfully tackling and quelling the blaze. Where are fire doors found? Fire doors are located inside the building and are designed to resist the spread of fire internally. As opposed to fire exits that are installed onto external walls in order to allow people to escape the building in the event of a fire emergency. Can fire doors be left open? No. Fire doors must remain closed at all times to prevent the spread of fire and smoke. Additionally, fire doors should carry a clear sign indicating that the fire door should be kept shut or locked shut. Where the fire door has an automatic closing feature, this information should be clearly displayed also. The importance of installing, inspecting and maintaining fire doors It is important to note that having a fire door isn’t a shortcut to a safer dwelling. Last year, the London Fire Brigade’s assistant commissioner Dan Daly said that of 177 care homes inspected across the capital, a third had inadequate or poorly maintained fire doors. So, what can those charged with keeping tenants safe do to minimise the risk posed by fire? Fire door installation It is important to remember that installing a fire door isn’t the same as a regular door and must be fitted by a competent installer. Although legal certification is not required to install fire doors, if they are not properly fitted, the fire resistance capabilities of the door can be compromised and even rendered useless. BM Trada offer the Q-Mark Fire Door Installation scheme for installers interested in becoming accredited. What steps should a fire door installer follow? First, they need to make sure they’re installing a fire door with the correct certification for the space. These vary from building to building, but they’ll always come with a certification mark veryifing the level of protection they offer.   Once they’ve put the door up they’ll then need to check the gaps around the top and sides have consistently gap of 2-4mm when the door’s closed. While the gap at the bottom can be no bigger than 10mm for FD30/60 and no bigger than 3mm for FD30/60S in line with the manufacturers installation guidelines and the BS 8214 2016 code of practice.   After that it’s time to check the intumescent seals around the door to ensure they’re intact – these expand in the event of a fire, preventing it from spreading through the gaps on the outer edges. All fire doors also need to be fixed with at least three hinges with no missed or broken screws to ensure it will perform properly under strain.   Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the door needs to close properly when installed. A fire door only works correctly when shut, so any door that is wedged open or doesn’t close fully is rendered useless.   Once a door is installed it still needs to be regularly inspected and maintained properly. Tenants and landlords should create a maintenance log for checking all doors regularly in a building, and ensure that any parts that are replaced are done so on a like-for-like basis. Article 17 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO/FSO) mandates that fire resisting doors should be correctly installed and properly maintained so that they remain effective and fit-for-purpose.  How often should a fire door be inspected? Fire doors should be inspected every six months for damage and to ensure they are still compliant. If the building is a particularly busy one or where the fire door is located in a heavily trafficked area, checking the fire door every 3 months might be prudent. It is important however to continually monitor the condition of internal fire doors, reporting any damage as soon as it becomes apparent. Who should inspect a fire door? It is essential that a competent person be entrusted with the inspection of fire doors. We would recommend a BM Trada Q-Mark trained Fire Door maintainer, FDIS (Fire Door Inspection Scheme) trained and registered individual carry out the inspection of fire doors. These individuals carry a diploma in fire doors and/or are Certified Fire Door Inspectors. Novus also offer this service and we encourage you to contact us if this service is of interest to you >> What should be checked when inspecting a fire door? 1.    Check the Fire Door Certification All fire doors must be certified (CE Marked) so make sure to check for a label or plug on the top or at the side of the door. 2.    Signs of Damage Check for obvious signs of damage to the door itself – making sure to check for cracks in the door or in the glass (if glazed). 3.    Check the gaps As when installing the fire door, ensure that there is a gap less than 4mm from the frame and less than2-4mm when the door’s closed. While the gap at the bottom can be no bigger than 10mm for FD30/60 and no bigger than 3mm for FD30/60S 4.    The Fire Door Closer Make sure the fire door closer is still properly attached and not damaged. 5.    Door frame and seals Ensure that the fire door frame is securely attached to the wall and undamaged with the intumescent seals in tact inside the frame. The seal must also be unbroken and undamaged. 6.    Hinges Fire doors need at least 3 hinges with a melting point above 800 degrees centigrade. The screws fixing the hinges into place should all be the correct size, taking care to make certain there are no broken screws as the door could become loose and ineffective. Maintaining and inspecting for future use We’re really proud of the work we’ve recently done to carry out fire door refurbishments across the length and breadth of the country in recent months, but there’s still a long way to go to ensure that both new and existing homes are as safe as possible. Following these processes will go a long way to achieving this. You can get in touch with us on 01782 237 249 or email us at to discuss your fire door project in detail.


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