VIDEO | Reimagining the NHS estate for a net-zero future

The NHS in England has set a target of 2040 to reach net zero. Participants in a roundtable convened by Hydrock looked at the major challenges around decarbonising healthcare.

Imagine a future where hospitals pulse with the rhythm of renewable energy, reducing their footprint by up to 80%, where buildings breathe clean air, and where patient care seamlessly intertwines with environmental wellbeing.

This isn’t vaguely thinking of some distant point in the future – it’s the here and now, the decarbonisation promise the NHS is now looking to sweep through its existing estate, one hospital at a time.

It’s a major challenge, but also a time of opportunity. Mark Walker, director and healthcare sector lead at Hydrock, said that the time is right for a proactive approach to problem-solving that could ultimately bring both operational and social benefits.

He said: “Seven years out from PFI expiry, NHS estate teams need to be reviewing the condition of their assets, and doing this through the lens of decarbonisation.

“The NHS has the opportunity to improve the operational and cost efficiency of their estate, meet their public goals to decarbonise and be a socially conscious organisation. PFI providers, all mainstream, large organisations backed by major investors, can walk away with ESG goals met from using their influence to revolutionise our public health service. It’s a win-win.”

Meeting at Wizu Workspace in Leeds, our panel of experts from across the built environment gave their thoughts on the major challenges and opportunities around decarbonising healthcare today.


  • Hughie Clark, director at EDGE
  • Nicola Clemo, head of strategic advisory at Archus
  • Lisa Geary, real estate healthcare partner at DAC Beachcroft
  • Mark Walker, director and healthcare sector lead at Hydrock
  • Guy Barlow, joint managing director at Manser Practice
  • Ian Stenton, national sustainability programme manager at NHS England
  • Andrew Gate, regional delivery director (North East & Yorkshire) at NHS England
  • Vicki Walsh, head of sustainability at Wates
  • Chaired by Neil Tague, senior reporter, Place North

Key points

As much as decarbonising heating & cooling, there’s a fundamental change needed in how we access medical services, rethinking what hospitals and other medical facilities are used for: do hospitals need more decentralisation?

More needs to be done to establish district heating networks including NHS estates.

The cost of moving from fossil fuels to electric-led heating is considerable, to this point decarbonisation grants have been a key factor with more than £800m in grants disbursed.

Greater collaboration is needed – between primary care and secondary care and social care – but also with the construction industry and consultants.

Architects in the sector are already focusing on climate adaptation when it comes to hospital estate design, with flooding a particular area of concern.

You can hear highlights from the roundtable in the video at the top of this article, as well as on the Place North YouTube channel. Learn more about Hydrock.



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