Taking on the challenge

The Mitford unit at Northgate Hospital in Morpeth, Northumberland, where fenestration was led by architectural glazing specialists Polar NE, uses a variety of Kawneer window and framing systems including a bespoke secure healthcare window specially fabricated for the £10 million project.

The unit is the UK’s first dedicated healthcare facility for adults with autism.

The specialist window – based on the Kawneer AA3110HW horizontal slider – has been used in the bedrooms and some communal areas alongside Kawneer’s AA540 fixed casements in corridors, AA541 top-hung casements in offices and reception, and 451PT framing in communal areas and corridors.

Supplied in moss grey, the windows were specified by Medical Architecture in conjunction with Kawneer dealer Polar, who had a team of two specialist installers on site for 11 months.

Built by Kier under ProCure21+, the accommodation comprises eight single-person and two and three-person shared flats interspersed with staff facilities. Given there was no precedent in the UK for this type of building, the project team had to develop design standards, harnessing knowledge gained from visits to other residential buildings for autism patients, information from organisations such as the Autistic Society, and first-hand knowledge from the trust’s clinicians.

Medical architecture director Paul Yeomans, said: “Mental health inpatient windows are a very specialist product and we have developed designs with one of the few manufacturers/fabricators over a period of 11 years.

“Polar chose Kawneer’s AA3110HW system components as a basis and we adapted the successful design to the particular needs of the autism unit. Creating a ligature-resistant window is a challenge that very few manufacturers/fabricators take on. It also needs to facilitate a challenging cleaning regime and, in some cases, prevent the passage of contraband, so all in all a complex component that is vital to creating a therapeutic yet safe environment.”

The windows were required to incorporate thick toughened and laminated glass for safety reasons so achieving the appropriate thermal performance within the width capacity of the frame was challenging at times. A bedroom window, for example, required a 10mm toughened inner and a 10mm toughened outer as the bedroom windows looked out onto a courtyard area.

Polar NE director Sandy Baxter, said: “This was a unique window design. Using our Wansbeck secure healthcare window – of which the ‘platform’ is the existing AA3110HW horizontal slider from Kawneer – we were required to further develop the design to meet the criteria for this specific project. It was installed so the patient only had access to the internal sliding sash. The rest of the window was concealed inside the wall.”

Staff have reported huge impacts on quality of life since residents moved into the Mitford unit.