Urban solutions to rural problems

The hospitals project in Ghana demonstrates that smart city technology can be used outside urban environments.


In March 2013, CampbellReith was instructed by NMS Infrastructure Limited (NMSI) to provide civil and structural engineering design services to their programme for six new district hospitals in Ghana.


Several sites had already been selected and the Architect, TP Bennetts, had developed a detailed masterplan that responded to the client’s brief and requirements.


Each district hospital is to have 120 beds and will be supported by a range of modern medical facilities to invigorate regional and district health care throughout Ghana. The masterplan had been developed to integrate modern healthcare standards with local Ghanaian culture and sought to make best use of local construction materials and techniques.


Construction costs have been rigorously controlled both in construction and operation with minimum future maintenance costs being a key driver. In this respect, a single storey development model had been agreed at an early stage to avoid both the cost and maintenance issues associated with two storeys or more. The added advantage of this approach was a more lightweight building frame and simplified construction process. However, this did produce a requirement for large flat sites on which to locate these hospitals with a target site size of 30-35 acres.


The Ghana Ministry of Health had undertaken to provide to NMSI six sites that were generally flat, measuring at least 30 acres and with highway and utility infrastructure to the boundary of the site. In late March of 2013 CampbellReith joined the design team in Ghana to review the sites, the local environment around each of the sites and commence the development of the masterplan into six localised development proposals.


The geographical landscape of Ghana does not generally lend itself to large flat areas of land particularly in the six districts that had been identified for development. It became apparent from the site walkovers that the engineering masterplanning of these six sites would be a complex exercise and without the initial benefit of detailed topographic information the site reviews would need to be supported by a greater level of technical detail to assist the site masterplanning.


The team from CampbellReith were able to obtain a combination of georeferenced aerial photography, 1:50,000 scale topographical records and Satellite Lidar data for each of the six sites from a wide range of mapping sources. Together with GPS logs taken from the walkover surveys we were able to produce constraints mapping that identified each individual site area, its boundary, basic contours, vegetation, watercourses and existing infrastructure. This constraint mapping was used locate the development masterplan within the site environment and then test it against the key criteria for development.


Initial three dimensional assessments were carried out on the principal earthworks required to support the development. Geological records were reviewed (including those held by the British Geological Society) to produce desktop reviews of the underlying geology and an assessment of the likely earthworks costs to undertake the development. Access and servicing could also now be considered and costed.


This was all fed back into the masterplan which was tested and adjusted on a site specific basis. Working with the Architect we established maximum gradient criteria between buildings and around the site, replanned and restructured the movement strategy to mitigate for level changes and orientated the development to suite the topography and access arrangements.


As a result, a number of the original site allocations were either rejected by the team as being unsuitable for development or adjusted by agreement with the Ministry and local administrations to suit. Once sites had been finally approved for construction, detailed topographic, geotechnical and hydrological surveys were commissioned to confirm the initial design assumptions and enable detailed design to be undertaken.


Geotechnical Investigations have been specified to obtain the vital information on the underlying strata required to characterise the development site to the standards and codes applicable to the design. The team also drew upon the expertise and testing facilities available within the local market with knowledge transfer training being provided where necessary. Where rock has been encountered within the investigations we have worked with the team to make adjustments to the masterplan and layout to avoid uneconomic excavation and make best use of the firm foundation strata.


Hydrological investigations have been carried out as a desktop exercise to ensure that each development was initially suitably located and to avoid unnecessary conflict with rainy season flood flows. Subsequent physical borehole investigations have been carried out to determine the suitability and location of ground water for supply.


The first development site in Dodowa commenced early in 2014 and the building structures are now underway with a completion expected early in 2015. Two further sites have commenced full construction with a third in early preparation for commencement.


One site in the Sekondi District remains unidentified but we have now developed the expertise within the team to be able to undertake initial site reviews and advise on suitability remotely through desktop review and can within a very short timeframe respond with a wealth of environmental and topographical mapping.


The initial masterplan is now incorporated into a digital 3D model for building and infrastructure layouts. The model contains the constraints and variables of the developed design philosophy which can overlaid onto any specific site in question and assessed to understand the acceptability of the site for development. Site development planning can be undertaken principally as a desktop exercise and, only when suitability has been confirmed through the initial review, are the costly and often time consuming physical investigations undertaken.

By Simon Boots, Partner at CampbellReith