Royal Hospital for Children and Young People

Interior view of the atrium at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and Young People, Edinburgh. A mixture of seating types, colour on the floor and illustration on the walls have been used in the large, bright space. Children and adults are using the area.
2021 | Client NHS Lothian

This new-build hospital project adjoining the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh brings under one roof the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and the Department of Clinical Neurosciences.

The exterior view of the Emergency Department at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and Young People, Edinburgh. A White building with 5 storeys, curved ends and irregularly placed windows. There is a canopy above the door for admissions. Three staff members walk towards the camera.

It is a complex, large-scale development that delivers on NHS Lothian’s vision to create in one inspiring space a centre of excellence catering to the needs of children and young people and a state-of-the-art neurosciences facility.



Hospital design with the young in mind

The site is arranged into three distinct elements: the ‘Podium’, which defines the edge of an extended public realm connecting all the main arrival points; the ‘Big Brother’ acute block, sitting within and on top of the Podium, which contains all the shared facilities, including diagnostic and treatment facilities and main ward accommodation; and the vibrantly coloured ‘Little Brother’, the outpatient facility of the Children’s Hospital, which has a dynamic pod space at its heart. 

A view into the atrium at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, from the first floor gallery. A glass roof creates a brightly lit space with sculpture, a wall mural colour and playful design features.
A wall is clad in a tactile sandstone-like surface - which has the appearance of a fossilised sea bed. A young girl walks past running her hand over it.

A key aspect of the building is the art and therapeutic design programme which was commissioned to help reduce stress and promote patient recovery.

Overall, the building contains 62 departments with facilities including 242 in-patient beds, 10 operating theatres with supporting critical care facilities, a comprehensive imaging department, a dedicated paediatric emergency department, outpatient clinics, support accommodation and a 25-bed home-from-home family hotel.

In one of the wards at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh.  Three beds are arranged with space around them and chairs for visitors. The floor is coloured yellow underneath the beds and some wall murals add interest to the space.
Detail of the curved exterior of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, newly finished. The lower storeys are clad in dark grey, with upper storeys in white render. Window frames are dark grey. A garden and play area is shown on the right.

Technical advisor role

The new ‘Sick Kids’, as the hospital is colloquially known, became fully operational in March 2021 but we began providing support as part of the technical advisor team as early as 2006. A reference design was developed in 2012 to meet the clinical requirements and to determine the overall affordability of the project.

In our role as quantity surveyor, we assisted with the development of the commercial elements of tender submissions. As none of the designs submitted in the bidding process fully reflected the ‘exemplar design’ prepared before the tender process, we were called on to provide additional scrutiny during the subsequent dialogue to ensure a fair comparison and accurate estimation.

Bespoke NPD contract

We were also closely involved in the procurement, using the new Non-Profit Distributing form of contract developed by the Scottish Futures Trust for large public-sector projects such as the construction of hospital buildings. 

This superseded the traditional private finance initiative (PFI) model as a means of securing private-sector involvement in all phases. Under this contract the facility reverts to public ownership at the end of 25 years.

Exterior detail of the Emergency Department of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and Young People, Edinburgh. A large, illuminated red sign "Emergency Department" sits above the main entrance to the white-rendered building.
The spaces are welcoming, but also fun; intended to put children and young people at ease at a time when they might otherwise be frightened, unsure or upset. 
NHS Lothian
View of the exterior of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children And Young People, Edinburgh. Landscaped areas and trees sit along side two sections of the building  which meet at a canopied entrance. On the left the building has white render, on the right a bow-ended building is clad in copper and silver tones with large windows.
Private room at the Royal Hospital for Sick children and Young People, Edinburgh. A boy is in bed with receiving visitors in this bright hospital room. Colour and illustration is used on the floor and walls.
The designed space is complemented by the inclusion of the latest clinical thinking and technology, enabling our teams to provide the best treatment and care for our patients not just now, but for years to come.
NHS Lothian
A play area between three sections of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and Young People, Edinburgh. Two children jump on a playground.

Integration into project team

Considering the scale of the project, its multiple stakeholders and a limited pre-contract programme, we opted to integrate fully into the project team, providing a permanent presence in the initial project office and afterwards on site. This allowed us to supply cost advice and guidance ‘on demand’ and enabled better communication with the contractors’ commercial team.

Given our experience of design, build, finance and operate (DBFO) project models, we were able to provide valuable input into the estimation of whole-life costs, merging the cost-in-use and construction costs. 

And through ongoing detailed assessment and negotiation in respect of client variations, we also helped to secure significant cost savings for the client in terms of both capital and operational expenditure.

A bow-ended building at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and Young People, Edinburgh. A purpose build new hospital, the main entrance with canopy is shown. The four storey building in the centre of the image is clad in copper, grey and green tones.


Architect HLM Architects
Project Manager
Mott MacDonald
Financial Advisor
Ernst & Young
Integrated Health Solutions Lothian
Quantity Surveyor
Thomson Gray
CDM Coordinator
Turner & Townsend
David Barbour