Published date: 12 June 2020

£1.9m fire safety remedial works and COVID-19 refurbishment


  • Works started in September 2019 and were completed in June 2020
  • Customers: Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust, Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust and Kernow CCG
  • Partners: Kendall Kingscott Ltd and RM Development Ltd

The challenge

Fire engineering investigations and surveys illustrated that we needed to address shortcomings relating to fire compartmentation and other fire related issues including urgent backlog maintenance works at eleven hospitals in Cornwall, including St Austell Community Hospital.

The solution

After consulting with the tenant, Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust, and its approved engineer, we agreed the scope of works for remedial fire safety precautions to the building. These included the replacement of the fire alarm installation, upgrading of critical compartment walls and ceilings to provide enhanced compartmentation, replacement of critical fire doors to enhance compartmentation, the installation of ceiling void cavity barriers, retrospective installation of fire and smoke dampers and ad hoc fire stopping. The backlog maintenance works required were to replace the nurse call system, install protective glazing films to windows/screens that represent a risk to staff and patient safety, and electrical works to improve lighting. Works started in September 2019.

While undertaking the works, in March 2020, the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak became apparent. Due to the fact that the contracted works addressed matters of fire safety, required extensive planning, had required the relocation of hospital services, and that extensive ceiling removal works had already occurred, it was neither desirable nor feasible to ask the contractor to cease works immediately in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

We therefore worked closely with the contractor and tenant to agree a method of work, based upon central Government NHS guidance, so that construction could continue without the risk of transmission of infection.

Whilst progressing with the contracted works, the customer made a request that the area in which the contractor was undertaking their work was to be upgraded to enable the area to accept COVID-19 patients. The existing area lacked the services and fittings and quality of finishes necessary to provide a hygienic and functioning inpatients facility.

The impact

The building now contains defensible lines of fire compartmentation as agreed by the customer’s fire engineer which enables the customer to implement its fire plan.

In addition, we delivered an extensive additional package of works which included replacement of floor coverings (including replacement of internal manholes), replacement of ceilings, supply and installation of new bedhead services and supply and installation of new IPS sink units so the hospital is able to treat COVID-19 patients.

Where possible, we installed low energy-use LED fittings to reduce the property’s carbon emissions in line with our commitment to be net-zero carbon by 2050.

Despite very short notice and without time for planning, both the original contracted works and the additional COVID-19 works were completed on the date agreed with the customer.

“This was a complex and demanding landlord project of high value. I’m really pleased it was delivered to time and budget despite the challenges of working on an older property and COVID-19. I was also delighted to see the feedback from our customers and fellow NHS colleagues who use the site and deliver the important clinical services.” - James Wakeham, Principal Construction Manager, NHS Property Services.

Customer feedback

“It has been a very successful project, the end result is fantastic. Margaret is over the moon. Workmanship has been high and is noticeable in the finish. Thanks to you, RM Developments, and our landlord NHSPS for delivering us a great space.” - Philip Walter, Estates Health, Safety and Compliance Manager, Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

“Absolutely delighted with the work to upgrade a ward at SACH. The standard and finish was excellent with staff feeling a real boost to their morale. NHS Property Services were very responsive to our changing requests so thank you.” - Margaret West, Matron, Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust