Altro solutions bring life to design-led Hull Birthing Centre

Home-from-home midwife-led birthing centre at Hull hospital enables more-natural childbirth experience

The interior design has been chosen to enhance the environment for patients, staff and visitors

A complete floor and wall solution from Altro has been used to create a home-from-home environment for mums-to-be in a new birthing 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.

“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

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, en-suite bathroom and additional equipment, which is cleverly concealed within hidden wall panelling.

The design vision for the 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 construction and was part of the team that devised the overall concept for the centre.

“We had a very specific idea of what we wanted the centre to look like, and how we wanted it to function,” he said.

“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.”

As a midwife-led unit, a relaxed and homely atmosphere was essential. However, a priority was, of course, infection control, hygiene, durability and quality

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 Fatima Allam herself, whose husband generously donated funds towards the unit,” said Howitt.

“Once we had decided on colours, we worked closely with Altro to look at the specific products that would meet our brief.”

She added: “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.”

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 it ideal for areas where durability is important.

Howitt chose Altro Whiterock Satins for the shower rooms.

This hygienic walls system is 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 benefits of Altro Whiterock, with a stain-resistant, wipe-clean surface.

Howitt said: “These wall 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. There, 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.

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

“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 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 using Altro Whiterock Digiclad, which matched the corridor wallpaper of Lotus, Persea and Jasmine flower heads on a pale-blue background.”

Flooring was key to creating the homely, non-clinical feel at the centre, and the project team wanted natural, warm, wood-effect surfaces.

They chose Altro Wood for the three bedrooms and corridors.

Ledger and his team also specified a wayfinding system for the new centre to help those who are partially sighted or have dementia.

The system comprises a border of Altro Walkway 20 safety flooring in black fitted around the edge of all the floors in the bedrooms and corridors.

Ledger said: “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 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.”

The flooring was installed by Floorcovers UK while the wall system was installed by Richardson Claddings. The main contractor was CTS Shopfitting. Ledger said: “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.

“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.

“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.”

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