Sustainability at Sycamore- NHS Sustainability Day of Action 2024

The Sycamore Unit is a 72 bed medium secure unit at Northgate Park in Morpeth. It’s a significant development for Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW). The project considered sustainability right from the start, it has achieved an excellent environmental rating and the unit contains a range of sustainable features.

The building is highly insulated and air-tight (similar in principle to ‘Passivhaus’, possibly familiar to anyone who has watched and episode of Grand Designs on TV). That basically means it is designed to reduce the need for heating or cooling wherever possible. For example, windows are carefully placed and sized to allow the sun to heat the building, but not to the point of needing air conditioning. A lightweight steel frame construction meant more insulation can be packed into the walls.

The new development replaces several older, less sustainable buildings. Bringing these together into one modern building has improved the overall energy efficiency of the site. Although the building isn’t fully powered by renewable energy, we have installed solar panels on the large roof so we can try and generate some energy ourselves. The Sycamore Unit still has lots of roof space, ideal for installing even more solar panels in the future!

The Sycamore Unit is in a beautiful natural setting, with woodland and greenery all around. These natural spaces often play an important part in therapeutic care provided on the unit. The site’s design also protects them. Designers used paving materials which water can drain through, to reduce flooding. The site’s drainage systems also hold rainwater runoff in ponds and wetland areas near the site. This reduces pressure on the water system and creates more spaces to support nature.

We’ve planted native plants that are good for bees and pollinating insects around the Sycamore Unit. To encourage people to take public transport, the local bus service has been extended to stop right on the doorstep of the unit. New electric car chargers were provided in the main car park close to the Sycamore Unit itself. And we’ve also added more covered bike storage, lockers, and staff shower and changing facilities.

As a result of these innovations and more, the Sycamore Unit has achieved an ‘Excellent’ rating in the ‘BREEAM’ standards. This is a strict, internationally recognised sustainability assessment standard. Sycamore is an important step on our journey towards developing more sustainable hospitals and buildings at CNTW.


NHS Sustainability Day of Action

Read all about our green plan and how we are working to try and reach Carbon Net Zero