Ruthin, North Wales: an energy efficient nursing home

The brief

Plas Gwyn Nursing Home, located near the town of Ruthin in North Wales, provides 24-hour nursing home accommodation for 30 residents. 20 additional beds were required to increase the total number of available residential nursing beds to 50. The client also wanted to offer an outstanding experience for residents to enjoy in this latter stage of their life by providing an enriched living environment, increasing the energy efficiency of the building while also improving internal air quality and thermal comfort.

NWD’s approach

Having undertaken a range of calculations on energy performance both for extending the existing building and for the construction of an entirely new building, the team decided that to achieve the required standards the best solution would be to construct an entirely new building, replacing the existing one.

Not only will the operational costs and whole-life carbon footprint of the building be significantly less for the new-build option, but the comfort levels for residents will be significantly higher. A further consideration should be the material benefit of a better performing building. Due to the high levels of performance and airtightness of the new-build structure it is likely that an MVHR system will be installed in it. This will provide fresh, filtered air to each bedroom and communal space which will further improve comfort and, according to anecdotal evidence, could limit the frequency of airborne viruses spreading amongst the resident population. It will also reclaim approximately 90% of all heat circulated, significantly reducing the heating demand further.

The proposed design comprised larger residents’ rooms with space for visitors as well as personal belongings, views of the surrounding landscape from all rooms, a WC and wet-room in every bedroom, more enjoyable shared common areas and safe accessibility around the building and to external spaces. The new building will also provide quality staff amenities and the facilities and spaces needed to deliver care in a safe and manageable manner.

The outcome

The key challenges for the project were working within the rural context and delivering a building that fits into the surrounding countryside. The mass of the building has been stepped into the landscape to partly hide the third floor below ground. The flat roof has been covered in a green sedum roof, to help merge the building into the landscape.

The building is made up of two forms; one element is inspired by a rural A frame barn and the other creates a linear element to express the repetition of the internal bedrooms. This repetition is then broken up with irregular timber-like panels to bring warmth to the elevations and interrupt the scale. The roof and walls of the barn element of the building is fully clad in slate and the entrance is extensively glazed.

The three main materials that have been chosen for the elevations are:

  • White render, which reflects the surrounding character and the building name (Plas Gwyn means white house in Welsh). These areas of the elevations are split up with large openings for each bedroom and softened with a timber-like cladding. This, coupled with the surrounding trees, allows the mass of the render to be broken up into a more domestic scale.
  • Slate for the roof and wall claddings, again reflecting the local character. The slate cladding will be used at the base of the building to anchor the building into the landscape and along the A frame part of the building to accentuate the barn form.
  • Timber – to soften the glazing and white of the render to allow the building to merge into the landscape from afar. The timber also breaks up the scale of the building and provides variety and warmth.


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