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    Building a children’s hospice: Hummingbird House by ThomsonAdsett

    60 Curwen Terrace Chermside QLD 4032

    Australian architects have a lot to boast about when it comes to healthcare design, with practices like Woods Bagot and Lyons pushing the boundaries of how hospitals should look, feel and work in recent years.

    Children’s hospices, on the other hand, are a far rarer subject in the architecture discourse, especially when it seems only right to prioritise the recognition of a hospice’s primary function above its aesthetics and build.

    However, the latest children’s hospice to be completed in Queensland gives us important insights into how design may contribute to short break stays and end-of-life care for children and teenagers. Hummingbird House by ThomsonAdsett, one of just three children’s hospices in the country and the only one in the state, is a study into the tight bonds that exist between aesthetics and emotions.

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    Unassuming at first glance, Hummingbird House is everything its name suggests – homely and warm, with none of the sterility or somberness often associated with traditional healthcare facilities.

    From the façade through to the bedrooms, breakout areas and even the backyard, the material palette and finishings are strikingly similar to a residential interior design, or even a boutique hotel.

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    This deliberateness to create a home away from home environment and experience was established through a human-centered process that includes the idea of ‘the warm embrace’.

    “The children that visit the house are ‘guests’. They are not patients or residents,” ThomsonAdsett explained to A&D. “Guests require a special level of care and attention and this is realised in the care and attention achieved in the spaces, choices and service.”

    Shortly put, Hummingbird House was intended to be more than just a standalone hospice facility with paediatric palliative care services. It had to be a place where families could come to find peace, support and rest in their time of need; the home that helped loved ones discover moments and create memories that would last a lifetime. And just as a house works as one with its many rooms, the centre offers flexibility to cater for the needs of its many occupants, from the guests and families themselves, to its dedicated volunteers and professional staff. 

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    Some other notable ideas that have incorporated into the design include:

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    • Allowing ‘Kids to be kids’ – enabling play and activities that will become fond memories for the kids and families. 

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    • An ‘Inhouse community’ – creating an atmosphere of coming to a home and not a workplace.

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    • ‘Connection to the environment’ – this was a core desire from the families and carers. 

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    • ‘Nest & Retreat’ – many of the families are experiencing extraordinary struggle in their lives and many seek time and space for respite and reflection.

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    • ‘Community connection’ – Hummingbird House is a place to meet others in similar situations, to stay connected, be supported and give.

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    • ‘Care and support’ – spaces and support teams that inspire trust so families can feel true respite.
    • ‘Circle of Life’ – providing opportunities to create beautiful and meaningful death rituals and memories for the families. 

    Although the material palette, necessarily appropriate to meet the centre’s needs and functions, was chosen to help establish a domestic architectural language, the team nonetheless paid due consideration to life cycle costs and efficiency of capital.

    “Sustainability was considered holistically with a key focus on minimising the impact on and improving engagement with the natural environment,” ThomsonAdsett said.

    Practically, this translates to specifying natural materials; having high level openable glazing to enable positive cross ventilation in the majority of guest rooms; large connected verandas that provide shading to the east and west; and a courtyard that lets in natural light and ventilation into the heart of the house while doubling as an alternative space for guest, families and staff to engage with nature. 

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    In addition, the guest rooms feature physical access to outdoor spaces and gardens. Substantially, approximately 21kW of solar PV have been installed, modeled to cover at least 25 percent of the house’s annual energy.

    Creating connections between the building and its existing context – the topography, a 6m cross fall, the existing trees, Orientation and potential views – did not come without a challenge, of course. Universal access to outdoor spaces and all levels meant it was critical that the correct level for the main house be established. What we see today is the result of carefully planned site positioning, where many of the existing significant trees on site were retained. These create the backdrop for many of the indoor-outdoor experiences. 

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    Just as important in such an emotionally sensitive space is social sustainability, which does not play second fiddle in the success of the house.

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    Even though it is less than a year since Hummingbird House was completed, its engaging design and build process has transcended the ‘own use’ principle to raise awareness and generate public discussion about palliative care, including the specific needs children with life limiting conditions have, as well as the families that love and care for them. This open dialogue has even included connections and sharing with international children’s hospices in Europe and Great Britain, and importantly with the existing children’s hospices in Sydney and Melbourne.  

    PRODUCTS

    EXTERIOR FINISHES

    ROOF
    ZINCALUME LYSAGHT IN ‘SURFMIST’

    CAR PORT ROOFS
    ZINCALUME LYSAGHT IN ‘DUNE’

    FASCIA WEATHERBOARD
    WEATHERTEX – PRIMELOK SHADOWOOD SMOOTH PAINTED IN ROCKCOTE ECOSTYLE, DULUX ‘POWERED ROCK’

    EAVES SOFFITS TIMBER
    AUSTRALIAN HARDWOOD – RECYCLED ‘SPOTTED GUM’ WITH EXPRESSED STEEL FIXINGS
    ORGAN OIL DECKING OIL/EXTERIOR OIL

    BALUSTRADE
    ALUMINIUM – DULUX DURALLOY POWDER COATED IN ‘CHARCOAL’

    WALL FINISHES
    ROCKCOTE ENTERPRISES, SANTA FE RENDER WITH ROCKCOTE ECOSTYLE PAINT
    AUSTRAL CLAY BRICKWORK
    HARDIFLEX FIBRE CEMENT CLADDING WITH SCYON COVER AND ROCKCOTE ECOSTYLE SATIN PAINT FINISH
    WEATHERTEX – PRIMELOK SHADOWOOD SMOOTH WEATHERBOARD CLADDING

    SCREENS & SHADING DEVICES
    ALUMINIUM IN DULUX DURATEC POWDER COAT FINISH

    ALUMINIUM FRAMED WINDOWS & DOORS
    DULUX DURATEC POWDER COAT FINISH

    FLOORING/PAVING
    BEAUMONT TILES, IN SIDEWALK SHALE R11
    BEAUMONT TILES, IN QUARTZITE MESH MOSAIC

    INTERIOR FINISHES

    FLOORS
    90MM AUSTRALIAN HARDWOOD ‘T&G’ POLOSHED FLOOR BOARDS WITH LOW VOC SEALER
    POLISHED CONCRETE SLAB R10 SLIP RESISTANCE
    FORBO FLOORING, SAFESTEP R12 SLIP RESISTANCE
    MARMOLEUM IN ‘SEALION’
    FORBO FLOORING, SURESTEP STONE VINYLIN ‘17112 SAND CONCRETE’
    SCHINDLER ARTIFICIAL GRANITE FLOOR, SCHINDLER 3300AP SERIES – PICCADILY

    CARPET
    INTERFACE AUST

    SKIRTING
    BEVELLED TIMBER 10MM X 100MM

    WALLS
    URBAN EDGE CERAMICS
    BEAUMONT TILES, WALL TILE
    GYPROCK EC08 COMPLETE
    SCHINDLER STAINLESS STEEL TO WALL – ‘FOGGY’

    JOINERY
    KICK:E0’ PARTICLE BOARD - LAMINEX NATURAL FINISH IN ‘ESPRESSO
    CUPBOARD/DRAWER FACE: ‘E0’ PARTICLE BOARD - LAMINEX NATURAL FINISH IN ‘BRONZEWORKS’ AND ‘ASH WHITE’
    ROBE FACE: ‘EO PARTICLE BOARD – LAMINEX NATURAL FINISH IN ‘JUTE 257’
    BENCH TOP: ‘E0’ PARTICLE BOARD - ESSASTONE ‘NEW CHINCHILLA’

    KITCHEN BENCH
    PLYWOOD – ESSATONE IN ‘FRAPPE’, 20MM

    COLD ROOM WALLS, DOOR, CEILING
    ‘COLORBOND’ METAL

    STAFF ROOM/OFFICE WALLS
    ECHOPANEL
    ABET LAMINATI HIGH PRESSURE LAMINATE – ‘406 MAGNETICO’

    BREEZEWAY ENTRANCE MATT
    CUSTOM WELCOME WITH ‘HUMMINGBIRD’ GRAPHIC

    POOL
    ROUKO PEBBLE FINISH – ‘AYMAN SANDS’
    BEAUMONT TILES, WALL TILE – HAVEN LIGHT LINEN SHINE
    BEAUMONT TILES, FLOOR TILE – HAVEN BONE
    METZ – COMBINATION EDGE SYSTEM

    Key Info

    Architect: ThomsonAdsett

    Client: Hummingbird House / Wesley Mission

    Completed: 3 June 2016

    Total Project Cost: Approx. $9.5 million

    Gross Floor Area: Approx. 1,990m2

    Cost per SQM: $4,773

    Human Centred Design Workshops: Surroundings

    Services Engineer: Wood & Grieve Engineers

    Project Manager: Turner & Townsend, Aspect Project Managers Pty Ltd

    Town Planner: Shane Howard Planning

    Landscape Architect: Saunders Havill Group

    Building Certifier: Mckenzie Group Consulting (Qld) Pty Ltd

    Pool Designer: Leisure Eng

    Geotechnical/Foundations: Douglas Partners

    Quantity Surveyor: DCWC

    Civil Engineer: Cardno

    Traffic Engineer: Brown Consulting

    Acoustic Engineer: Ask Consulting

    Structural Engineer: AECOM Australia

    Heritage Architect: Ruth Woods

    Construction Team: Woollam Constructions

    Photography: Alicia Taylor

    Words: Geraldine Chua

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