This 40-bed hospital is located in the southern KwaZulu-Natal farming town of Kokstad. At an altitude of 1300 metres the climate is severe: hot summers and cold winters with snow annually.
A well-established general medical practice operating from a converted residential building wanted to design an efficient and economical new building with plenty of natural light and ventilation.
The long, narrow site (100 x 40 metres) and linear vehicular circulation played an important role in determining the footprint of the building.
Central to the operation of the hospital and key to the efficiency was the arrangement of the doctors’ examination rooms around a central corridor. The logical flow of patients from reception/waiting, to screening (pre-examination), to examination and finally to procedures generated an almost square plan with consequent problems of interior spaces lacking access to natural light, ventilation and views. The design solution was to modulate the roofscape by forming two broad concrete valley gutters upon which the roofs would be staged, thus allowing natural light and ventilation through clerestory windows. In addition, combinations of simple roof lights and clear roof sheeting allow direct and reflected natural light into passages and corridors. Doctors and operating theatre staff have commented on the benefits of having external views from every room in the hospital (except x-ray!).
These lighting and ventilation interventions together with thermal insulation strategies and the attention to north-east sunlight have significantly reduced their energy costs and at the same time created comfortably warm spaces in the winter mornings.
The building uses locally sourced clay bricks, steel windows, metal roof sheeting and suggests reference to the rural shed vernacular through roof forms and side cladding of some structures.