Dudhope Young People’s Inpatient Unit, Dundee

A home from home for personalised care

On Tayside, BAM has delivered a purpose designed residential mental health unit that provides round-the-clock support for recovery

Occasionally, young people with the most complex mental health conditions may have to spend time as in-patients to get the help they need. But in the past, many residential Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) facilities were housed in unsuitable buildings: typically converted from other uses and difficult to maintain. 

Project details

  • Customer: Hub East Central Scotland for NHS Tayside
  • Main contractor: BAM Construction
  • Architect: Gauldie Wright Partnership
  • Structural engineer: Morgan Associates
  • M&E consultants: Cadogans Consultants
  • M&E designers: FES
  • Civil and structural engineers: Goodson Associates
  • Funding solutions: Robertson Capital Projects

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BREEAM Fact icon Very Good rating
Zero Fact icon harm and defect-free on delivery
15% Fact icon recycled content used, to meet customer targets
70% Fact icon workforce for the project was local
In 2015, just such a cramped, outmoded institution in Dundee, on Scotland’s East coast, was replaced by a purpose-built modern building where people between the ages of 12 and 18 can access in-patient support and treatment for psychiatric illnesses that are causing them and their families or carers extreme difficulty.

Dudhope Young Person’s Unit (YPU) shelters on a sloping, wooded parkland site with views over the River Tay, close to Dundee city centre. With 12 en-suite rooms – as well as dayrooms, an on-site education centre, therapy and exercise spaces, and accommodation for visiting family – the unit provides a calm and safe space for both acute and non-acute patients. 

The unit’s values focus on a personalised and collaborative approach to care: “We believe in providing person centred care collaboratively with young people, their families, carers and partner agencies.” And the new building is designed to help deliver that care in numerous practical but also very sympathetic ways.
One of the biggest challenges to the project came early on, as the original scheme was over budget. However, BAM worked closely with the customer and the design team to bring the design in line with the available budget. The original vision for the scheme remained intact, and BAM was still able to deliver outstanding quality.

Dudhope YPU is the result of a partnership between NHS Tayside, Grampian, Highland, Orkney and Shetland, who came together to form the North of Scotland Regional Child and Adolescent Mental Health service project. By working together, the five health boards have developed a specialist network for the care of young people with mental health problems. 

A safe and reassuring space

In 2014, BAM was appointed to deliver the new unit under a bespoke design and build framework contract for hub East Central Scotland. Conceived as a place of sanctuary, the new building needed to meet all the needs of a modern psychiatric facility, but still feel homely and comfortable.

Young people from the previous CAMHS facility, along with staff, were involved in the conception of the new unit to make sure it would meet their needs.

The design recognises the specific requirements of young people at this crucial stage in their lives. As well as round-the-clock care, they need to have every opportunity to continue their education, to explore their creative side and to achieve a stronger sense of self-worth. 

Artist Donald Urquhart was commissioned to work with the young people, to develop and implement an arts strategy for the new building. The resulting installations incorporate visual arts, poetry, sound… as well as a gallery space to showcase the patients’ own work. 

Safe and practical zoning

The 7,000m2 building sits into the hillside – in the grounds of Dudhope House – with a design that flows over two levels. The main entrance and reception is on the lower floor, along with the administrative offices and the education suite. 

Private bedrooms for the residents are housed in one wing of the larger, second floor, with some facing inwards to a landscaped courtyard garden and others looking out across the Tay. There is also a self- contained apartment in the building for visiting families.

The therapy rooms are on the same level, along with shared spaces for socialising, cooking, eating and relaxing so young people can get involve activities just as they would at home, with other people or on their own.

BAM worked closely with the architects and the client group to ensure that building design was future-proofed. The flexible spaces on the upper floor are easy to reconfigure if more accommodation is needed. Another planned-for option will be to build an extension to the existing core, to the east of the building.

Connecting with outdoor space

Landscaping was a key element of the design: in recognition of the fact that the setting could have a direct and positive impact on patients’ health and wellbeing. 

An enclosed courtyard garden provides a secure external environment for patients to exercise and relax, giving them independence and helping to speed their recovery. 
There are other landscaped areas close to the education suite and the staffroom. 

Most importantly, the building needed to connect both visually and physically with its parkland setting. The site was kept as natural as possible, with significant replanting and the creation of ‘forest walks’ for residents and visitors.

Sympathetic to its surroundings

Although Dudhope YPU is a conventionally built, steel frame structure, the modern design connects directly to the woodland environment of the historic site. 

The front wall is a mixture of brick and timber cladding. The dark blue/grey bricks accentuate the lush green surroundings of the landscape, while the Scottish Larch cladding is turning a graceful silver that reflects the cool northern light. 

The mixture of flat and low-level mono-pitched roofs are finished with standing seam and single membrane finishes. The rear elevation disappears into the hillside, concealing the mass of the building from the nearby houses on the north of the site. 
The bright, welcoming building makes maximum use of natural light and fresh air. The way that rooms are oriented – as well as passive solar shading – provides extra security and privacy.
At night the surrounding trees, as well as the solar shading, ensure that local residents are not disturbed by lights glowing inside the building.

This was a challenging construction site, close to residential housing. So the project involved careful traffic management and reconfiguration of the existing highway. BAM successfully built a new multi-level car park for staff and visitors, as well as the supporting road infrastructure, on a live operational site. 

A collaborative approach to construction

Once BAM had been appointed as Tier 1 contractor, all the parties involved in the project joined forces for a robust value engineering process. This resulted in further economies while still meeting the brief and delivering a fit for purpose building.

For example, the finished height of the building was raised by a metre, to cut the cost of removing excavation material.

Design for sustainability 

Many features of the building contribute to its BREEAM rating of Very Good. These include high levels of thermal insulation, rainwater harvesting, primarily natural ventilation and roof-mounted solar photovoltaic and thermal arrays. Automated timers and power-down devices throughout the building help to save energy.

Achieving this rating was a major undertaking for a building classified as a ‘hospital’ on a greenfield site, with a single aspect and steeply sloping contours.

During construction, 98.1% of waste was diverted from landfill, largely through careful waste segregation.