Aluminium in use

Why architects are using aluminium in hospital design

Kevin Widlic

By , Senior digital editor

Why architects are using aluminium in hospital design

Architect Antonio Ocaña and the massive Puerta de Hierro Hospital in Majadahonda, just outside Madrid.

Designing hospitals requires special competence. Architects also need knowledge of the materials that can handle the constant traffic and last, such as aluminium.

Spain has built more buildings over the past three decades than any other country in Europe. This includes infrastructure that the country didn’t have before – airports, public buildings, hospitals – and this also has increased the level of the expertise that Spanish professionals have accumulated.

Architect Antonio Ocaña is a partner in Madrid-based Aidhos Arquitec. The firm has a high level of expertise in the area of health care, particularly in the architecture and engineering of hospitals.

Flexibility, functionality, modularity – and simplicity

“When we design hospitals, we are looking at areas like flexibility, functionality, modularity and the separation of flows,” says Ocaña. “All these uses create complexity, and when we design hospitals, we try to design them rationally and with simplicity. This specialization is needed.”

One Aidhos project was the massive Puerta de Hierro Hospital in Majadahonda, just outside Madrid. It took 30 months to complete the project, from the ground up.

Aluminium systems were very much part of the project, because they support the needs of the building. “We’ve also used aluminium in facades in hospitals like IMQ Bilbao and in the Maternity of Oporto in Portugal,” he says.

Architect Antonio Ocaña inside Puerta de Hierro Hospital in Spain.

Architect Antonio Ocaña and Aidhos Arquitec used aluminium systems throughout Puerta de Hierro Hospital.

Aluminium for inside and outside the hospital

“Hospitals deteriorate relatively quickly, so it is necessary to design spaces with resistant materials. Aluminium is competitive because it is resistant, light and nice at the same time. It is useful both outside and inside the building,” says Ocaña.

With a density one-third that of steel, 2,700 kg/m3, aluminium is super light. But light does not mean weak. Aluminium alloys have tensile strengths of between 70 and 700 MPa.

Another benefit, particularly for outdoor applications, is the metal’s corrosion resistance.

Aluminium reacts with the oxygen in the air to form an extremely thin layer of oxide. Though it is only some hundredths of a micron thick (1 micron is one thousandth of a millimeter), this layer is dense and provides excellent corrosion protection. Furthermore, the layer is self-repairing if damaged.

Building refurbishment in health care segment to increase

Ocaña says the useful lifetime of a hospital is about 25 years. As a result, he says refurbishment is going to become more prevalent in the health care segment.

“With the deceleration of investment in new infrastructure, I think it is quite reasonable to expect growth in the refurbishment of hospitals in the next few years,” he says.

Read how Bloomberg has used aluminium in its new London office

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