The Khayelitsha Hospital brought enormous opportunities to create a place of treatment and healing that caters specifically to the needs of the rapidly growing and largely informal township.

The high rate of violent crime in the area resulted in the hospital having the largest trauma unit in South Africa. The need for constant and visible security, so that patients and staff feel safe, were elements that had to be factored into the design.

As the scope of the project evolved, more emphasis was also put on a “green” brief, and this was followed as closely as possible within the cost, time and performance parameters of the project. The green agenda was driven by Gavin Graham, who was ACG Architects’ project architect and sustainability officer at the time.

“Green interventions needed to comply with Department of Health norms for health and operational considerations. For example, rainwater or greywater use, even for flushing toilets, was rejected due to perceived potential legionella risks,” explains ACG Architects’ principal Malcolm Campbell.

A hospital has operational complexities that are far greater than most building, notes Campbell. For instance, Khayelitsha required a dedicated air conditioning system with 100% fresh air supply for the tuberculosis area in the outpatient department.

The building is centred on two main spines: the public spine along the front, with entrances connected to the patient/staff spine towards the back, and the wards stretching out like fingers. This configuration allows for expansion and flexibility as the needs of the hospital change and technology evolves.

The series of courtyards around and within the hospital building crowns this project. Beautifully landscaped and proudly maintained, each courtyard boasts different patterns and different vegetation, as well as artworks commissioned from artists within the community.

One of the most striking features of the hospital is the use of renewable energy. The engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the solar and wind portion of the project was Power Solutions.

“With the decreasing cost of renewable power generation and rising electricity tariffs, it makes economic sense to integrate renewable power generation into public facilities to bring down their operating costs,” says Power Solutions MD Axel Scholle.

Two 1 kW peak vertical axis wind turbines are located in the front entrance courtyard, while a 25 kW peak photovoltaic system is located on the roof above the main entrance. The PV system is an array of 108 solar panels connected to two grid inverters. The same inverters are used for both wind and solar power and feed into the hospital’s electrical distribution boards.

Although renewable energy contributes only a small portion of the hospital’s total energy requirement (about 40 MWh/year), it allows the hospital to offset some of its carbon footprint and mitigates 41.6 tons of carbon dioxide emission annually.

Khayelitsha Hospital CEO Dr Anwar Kharwa reiterates that the hospital is a home for great engineering and technology, and ensuring that this operates as intended, is paramount. Performance monitoring of the facility shows that this is happening.

Facilities manager Mark Peters explains that training of staff on proper building use and maintenance is a continuous process, but they appreciate the facility, and come to work more rejuvenated, enthusiastic and happy.


*The full article appears in the June-July 2013  issue. Images: Jason Buch (