Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, Wales

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    Darwin Group Ltd

Providing timely building control expertise, Harwood helped to facilitate the rapid build of a COVID ward

The Lakeside Wing at the University Hospital of Wales was designed to provide a temporary COVID-19 surge facility and ensure sufficient capacity would be available in the event of a further spike in cases. In September 2020, Harwood was appointed by Darwin Group Ltd – who were delivering the design and build for this project – to provide building control services from the early stages. As the year progressed, and the effects of the second peak of the Coronavirus pandemic started to take hold, this added to the urgency of what was becoming a race against time to deliver this critical project.

The Lakeside Wing was designed to initially act as a COVID patient surge resource and was conceived as a place where patients would undergo essential rehabilitation after a period of acute illness, but in the future it could be for all types of illnesses.

The need to have the facility up and running urgently meant a phased occupancy approach would be implemented. This would lead to different parts of the building being released while the remainder of the structure was still under construction. It was important to get each part of the building signed off and safe to be used by COVID patients and their staff as soon as possible.

One of the challenges this presented related to fire precautions and access to water supplies. It was vital to ensure that fire appliances and fire fighters were able to easily get into the finished parts while construction on other modules continued. This included making sure that water supplies were readily accessible in the event that a fire needed to be extinguished.

A further challenge was escape routes. The planned escape routes would have been through some of the unfinished parts of the building and so alternatives had to be found. A design was devised which allowed each component of the building to be compliant on a standalone basis.  These temporary arrangements were thoroughly considered, and different scenarios played through in consultation with the Health Board and Darwin Group. Together, a strategy was agreed which would cope with all the necessary eventualities.

Harwood had regular involvement throughout the project with frequent meetings and inspections to ensure everything progressed as smoothly and quickly as possible.  Kevin Blunden – Technical & Compliance Director at Harwood Building Control – led the project and comments: “The key to delivering this project in such a short time frame was clear communication between all involved parties, and close and continuous collaboration from the early design stages. Turning actions around as rapidly as possible, whilst maintaining strict compliance with the building regulations, was also essential. Due to the fast-paced nature of the project, it was not uncommon for decisions to be reached within just 24 hours.”

It was just 107 days after construction started on 27 December 2020, that the Lakeside Wing accepted its first patient and by 8 February 2021, building work on the new surge facility was completed. This was just 20 weeks after construction commenced. Funded with a £33m investment from the Welsh Government, the requirement – predicted by the Welsh Government, local intelligence data and modelling – was to provide 600 COVID patient beds.

Tom Morgan from Darwin Group adds: “This project really highlighted the importance of having an experienced partner like Harwood involved in the building control from an early stage. We were able to work together quickly and efficiently. Their proactive involvement was vital in being able to solve problems and to meet deadlines.  This also ensured the smooth running of operations on-site. Their clear communication and quick response times allowed the project to be delivered efficiently and in accordance with regulations, without unnecessary burden or complexity.”

For more information about Harwood and how our building control inspection services can add value to your projects, get in touch with our team today on +44 (0)1227 931 777 or email


If you are looking to mitigate risks in terms of delays or unexpected costs, the experience of Harwood Approved Inspectors ensures buildings are safe for their users by identifying non-compliant features and working with design teams and contractors so they can create real-world solutions to construction challenges. Based in Kent, Harwood provides Approved Inspector building control services for commercial construction projects across England and Wales. Our highly professional yet approachable approach and pragmatic attitude ensures the details that matter are taken care of.

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