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NUS Block MD10, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, Singapore

Designing a safe and conducive educational environment

The National University of Singapore (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine is regarded as a leading medical education and research facility in Asia. Key to its mission is the medical and biosafety research facility housed within Block MD10, which nurtures future medical and science professionals. The existing, four-storey building includes, anatomy hall, laboratories, lecture rooms, museum, mortuary, and administrative and faculty offices.

Built 30 years ago, the building no longer conformed to the latest building and energy codes. Its performance was also below optimum with insufficient ventilation and high utility consumption. Additionally, the space no longer fitted the end-users’ current needs, resulting in the need for an extensive upgrade.

Design-led approach

To meet this goal, Aurecon led the MEP engineering design, working closely with the architect on space planning and design to meet the multiple stakeholders’ needs. However, the expansive scope of the project presented a number of challenges such as:

  • Strict timeline and staged construction to minimise disruption of the operations within the building

  • Minimal access to the building’s old MEP design, making it more challenging to retrofit the solutions to the 30-year-old structure

  • Balancing the various needs of the stakeholders and the different requirements of each floor within the building

Aurecon’s design approach focused not only on complying with regulations and technical aspects of the project, but also on how users interacted with the facilities. To achieve this, the project team collaborated with different stakeholders to capture their needs through interviews and discussions.

Elaborate engineering effort

The MEP systems of each floor and room were then customised to the end-users’ unique needs and to comply with the latest requirements of the relevant government codes, as well as NUS’s own Health, Safety and Sustainability requirements. The additions and alterations include:

  • Efficient space planning to ensure visitors, students and staff would be able to go about their business while maintaining privacy and safety. For instance, a new reception area for families and loved ones of deceased body donors to pay their final respects was included on the first floor, fitted out with soft lighting and positive air-pressure, to create a respectful atmosphere. The dissection and embalming areas were separated from the teaching areas so that specimen preparation can be carried out without disruption to the lessons and vice-versa.

  • Enhancements were done to foster better user experience. As an example, the Human Anatomy Teaching Facility is now an enlarged, well-ventilated hall for anatomy prosection classes, during which visuals of dissected specimens can be projected on large TV screens, with commentary delivered via a state-of-the-art audio-visual system. New-generation trolleys with facilities for connection to efficient downdraft suction systems that minimise formalin exposure means students and staff can work comfortably and safely.

  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) sensors were installed to ensure ventilation systems for high density occupancy zones have enough quantities of fresh air and prevent high CO2 concentration in each of the building’s sections

  • The heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system was designed and rigorously tested to prevent contamination by airborne biological/chemical agents from laboratories, the mortuary and embalming areas. Airlocks were added as a barrier for isolation contaminants and to avoid mixing of air flow between the areas in the building.

  • Cost-savings from tapping chilled water supply from the neighbouring Block MD6’s centralised chiller plant to support the newly designed HVAC system at Block MD10

  • All power-related MEP equipment piping and ductworks were isolated to reduce reverberation that may affect vibration-sensitive equipment in the museums and laboratories

  • Two-way and one-way Emergency Voice Communication Systems were added as a safety back-up mechanism to radio communications during emergencies

Lasting benefits

While many MEP innovations in the MD10 building are invisible to the end-users, the benefits can be felt, resulting in a more harmonious interaction between the user and building operations. For instance, positive pressure in all the non-laboratory areas prevents seepage of unpleasant smells from the laboratory areas. Lighting and equipment layout were thoughtfully designed to allow better visibility and smoother and safer traffic flow. Feedback from the end-users, indicate that the work environment is now more pleasant and comfortable.

Overall, the refurbished facility has expanded its teaching space by 16 per cent from the original 1050 square metres and can now more comfortably accommodate the 800 Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy and Life Sciences undergraduate students attending Human Anatomy practicals, as well as residents and specialists participating in workshops there.

To keep it future ready, the building and all newly installed MEP systems can be easily adjusted and customised, as and when the need arises.

Officially opened on 17 March 2016, the new building achieved a Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Green Mark GoldPlus Award for Non-residential Existing Building, Version 3, and has been recognised with a Merit Award at the Association of Consulting Engineers Singapore (ACES) Design Excellence Awards 2018.

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