The use of “virtual LEGO” to help build a North East hospital has been celebrated with a national award.

Hopewood Park in Ryhope picked up the accolade after the NHS and architects developed a computerized model of the hospital to test it out before building it in the real world.

The hospital, run by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW), was handed the Award for Best BIM (Building Information Modelling) Development at the Building Better Healthcare Awards for its use BIM in developing the site.

Using 3D-technology, architects were able to ‘build’ the hospital virtually – complete with furniture –  and take NHS staff for a “walk” round it before a stone was laid in the ground. This allowed NHS workers to pick out any changes that designers might need to make to the building to make it a better environment for the people they care for.

NTW’s project manager for Hopewood Park Grahame Ellis said: “BIM works a bit like ‘virtual LEGO’ so we were able to get a better idea of how Hopewood Park might work when completed, rather than just rely on 2D drawings.

“BIM effectively enabled designers and our clinical staff to take a virtual walk around the buildings. This meant that our staff were able to suggest changes, resulting in a better overall environment to care for the people we serve and our staff.

“It’s so important that the people who are using a building day-to-day are able to help shape it, and using BIM allowed us to do that down to very fine details.”

By having the build rendered in 3D, staff were able to make suggestions on how the building could work better for them and the people they care for. This went from making sure there was enough light and space, down to intricate details, such as moving a cupboard or sink so it would be easier to use.

Opened in September 2014, Hopewood Park is part of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health and disability services to the people of the North East.

Director of Medical Architecture, the architects behind the scheme, Paul Yeomans, said: “BIM is at the heart of this new facility. It has led to a better understanding from the trust of how 3D modelling can lead to better outcomes for future NHS facilities, through the inherent cost, programme and quality savings.

“Its role in introducing people to what they can expect from their new buildings has improved communication and transformed the engagement process.”

It’s not the first time the site has been noted for its use of BIM. Hopewood Park previously won the national construction ward for BIM Project of the Year in the Construction Excellence Awards, where the judges said: “The full BIM approach sets a benchmark for the industry on how innovative techniques can deliver time, cost and quality benefits to clients by reducing defects, encouraging early engagement and ensuring a smooth delivery.”

For more information, contact NTW’s communications team via communications@ntw.nhs.uk