Healthy building brings wider benefits for Liverpool

One of the healthiest buildings in the world will open in Liverpool in 2021. The Spine, a new home for the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) in partnership with Liverpool City Council, is designed to the internationally renowned WELL standard* to increase the health and wellbeing of people who work and visit there.

For the first time in its 500-year history, the RCP will have two large main offices working together with regional teams as one college. By the time the building is fully open in 2021, the RCP expects to have over 100 staff working there, including many roles recruited locally, bringing jobs to Liverpool and supporting the local economy.

In September the RCP agreed the final designs for the floors it will occupy in the building, encompassing dedicated facilities to host examinations and assessments, and educational lectures and courses. The main conferencing and events spaces including restaurant facilities will be on the top floor, offering fantastic views over the city and beyond. There will be rooms specifically for RCP fellows and members, and floors for the RCP’s own staff. Other medical and scientific organisations will be able to rent smaller dedicated office spaces, and feel part of this medical environment.

Investment for Liverpool

The Spine is part of a new health and science community — Paddington Village — which will include many health, education and science organisations coming together to forge a new district. The new buildings and employment opportunities will revitalise the local economy, with new shops and residential units supporting the office buildings. Bringing these organisations and companies together will enable new collaborative partnerships to be formed.

During the build, Liverpool City Council has insisted on significant investment in local suppliers to the build to add to the benefits of local employment. The property, construction and fit out specialists working on the project — CBRE, Morgan Sindall and Overbury — have committed to employing a significant percentage of the construction staff locally, with a further commitment for a percentage of these roles to go to local people who find it difficult to obtain employment for a variety of reasons. Several apprenticeships have also been created, both at The Spine and for the entire Paddington Village development.

World-class educational facilities

The purpose-built education floor will include two key unique features — the WOW wall and the Harvard Lecture Theatre. The WOW (Window on the World) wall is a bank of interactive screens that enables anyone from anywhere in the world to be connected to the room and to be seen individually. This feature supports an audience or teaching session with one person or several, and will be one of only a few in the whole country.

The Harvard Lecture Theatre takes a horseshoe shape that encourages interaction between lecturers and the audience, and has banks of swivelling chairs, enabling those attending to turn and form small working groups without needing to move to a different room or breakout space. Stepped rows give everyone a great view of the lecturer and slide presentations.

These facilities will be complemented by a wide variety of flexible teaching spaces holding anything up to 120 people, with accompanying smaller rooms for breakout sessions and coaching. In addition to being used by the RCP for its own highly regarded and popular courses, the spaces will be available for other organisations to hire for their own educational activities, from major multi-day day clinical meetings to an intimate workshop in a single room. The RCP will also be able to offer tailor-made education courses and workshops to local health bodies wanting to focus on areas such as educational supervision or communications skills.

Purpose-built assessment centre

The 11th floor of The Spine is being designed specifically to host exams and assessment, incorporating new design features to support a better flow of patients, candidates and examiners.

There will be two identical sets of rooms set either side of the lifts, with a dedicated reception area to welcome patients, candidates and examiners. In addition to the small rooms set aside for examining candidates, the floor will include an examiners’ briefing room and a patient waiting room.

To increase usability, the assessment suites will have adjustable walls to vary the size of the rooms to accommodate different exams, and some rooms will be able to host two patients instead of one, while maintaining confidentiality with the use of screens. In keeping with the healthy principles behind RCP at The Spine, the assessment rooms will benefit from natural light due to the full height windows, providing a calm environment for what can be a stressful experience for candidates.

More than a building

While The Spine itself will be architecturally significant, it is not an end in itself. Being part of a larger complex, the RCP will use its anchor status in the development to welcome and support medical and scientific organisations joining us at Paddington Village and the wider Knowledge Quarter.  With our major strands of work on clinical excellence, quality improvement and patient safety, we will continue to contribute to improving patient care across the UK and globally.

Our presence in the north as a beacon of public health excellence will support one of our major policy initiatives, that of reducing health inequality. Working closely with existing organisations such as the Northern Health Science Alliance, local health commissioners and providers, RCP at The Spine provides a new opportunity to become involved in the kind of local/regional public health research that could contribute to healthier lives, reduce health inequalities and improve care for the growing numbers of people living with multiple health conditions.

Robert Hopkins, regional director at architecture and building consultancy practice, AHR, said, ‘Our collective approach to The Spine was always to create more than a headquarters. Our design transcends this in every way — providing a catalyst that will enable a new chapter in the history of the RCP, increasing their ability to reach out and communicate to their members, fellows and the wider public.’

‘The Spine evolves RCP’s approach to the workplace, creating a living and breathing environment that works with staff and their workplace needs, whilst looking after and enhancing their health and wellbeing. RCP members and fellows were extremely supportive of the research and use of biophilia that is harnessed throughout our architecture and interior design of the building to create a lasting, positive and healthy workspace, which clearly expresses their ethos and values.’

Welcoming the local community

RCP at The Spine will include several public spaces and will welcome the public to find out more about our work. There is a café on the ground floor, and on one side of the building there is a feature staircase leading from the ground to the first floor, where people can meet and chat over a coffee. The first floor entrance will be home to a small exhibition space, which is expected to be used for a series of temporary exhibitions, including information about the RCP’s work in today’s NHS. Being next door to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, a major teaching and research hospital, the Spine is likely to become a favourite meeting spot for healthcare professionals.

A beacon of excellence

RCP at The Spine aspires to be a beacon of excellence, attracting high quality healthcare professionals and staff, driving quality improvement in a pioneering atmosphere of collaboration and partnership. It is a showcase that will open up medicine — a chance for us to show and demonstrate what we are most proud of as an organisation. It will establish our presence, excellence and purpose for the next 500 years.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said:

The arrival of the RCP in Liverpool marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for KQ Liverpool and the city’s future economic development. The facilities and jobs RCP North will bring to the city will be of huge benefit and their new home in Paddington Village will be a real landmark moment.

The Spine is an apt name, not only due to its medical connotations, but also because this development forms the central backbone of our long-term plans for the Paddington Village scheme.

It’s also highly encouraging that The Spine will pursue world-class standards of build and design, hopefully raising the bar for sustainable future development in Liverpool and creating an excellent working environment for the RCP and other new occupiers in the building.

Notes to editors

Plans and artists impressions of RCP at The Spine are available. For further information and to arrange interviews, please contact RCP head of strategic communications Linda Cuthbertson on 020 3074 1254, 07748 777919 or linda.cuthbertson@rcplondon.ac.uk.

*The WELL standard

Launched in October 2014, the WELL Building Standard is the premier standard for buildings, interior spaces and communities seeking to implement, validate and measure features that support and advance human health and wellness. More information is available here.

RCP at The Spine

  • Ground floor – double height atrium, reception, café, signature staircase
  • 1st floor – rear entrance, exhibition space, meeting rooms, small office spaces for medical and scientific organisation partners
  • 2nd floor – RCP office space
  • 10th floor – RCP office space, partly with double height atrium and meeting space
  • 11th floor – assessment and examination rooms
  • 12th floor – education facilities including WOW wall and Harvard Lecture Theatre
  • 13th floor – meeting and event space with restaurant facilities