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Royal Victoria Building, Edinburth

Royal Victoria Building

One of the UK’s first factory-made buildings, a new healthcare facility was delivered with a quarter fewer workers and 20 weeks faster than possible using traditional construction.

Western General Hospital / Edinburgh, UK


The Royal Victoria Building, a £35 million facility, was built for NHS Lothian, part of the National Health Service. It provides 147 single-occupant bedrooms, specialized geriatric, rheumatology, and dermatology wards, plus assessment and treatment centers.

Constructing the facility faced special challenges. Working space at the building site, located on the main hospital campus, was restricted. Construction-related noise and impact on traffic had to be minimized. The campus is bounded on one side by a main traffic artery and on the other three by a one-way “blue light” route used by ambulances.


Mott MacDonald was retained by contractor Laing O’Rourke to provide detailed civil and structural engineering design.

The Royal Victoria Building was designed as a precast reinforced concrete structure. Walls, columns, stairs, lift shafts, and floor slabs were all factory-made. Wall panels were prefitted with windows, making the building weathertight without the need for glaziers. Stairs came with handrails prefixed and were safe for use straight away. Bathroom pods for each of the 147 patient rooms were delivered to site plumbed and finished, ready to connect to building services.

Precast components came from Laing O’Rourke’s factory in Nottinghamshire, which uses robotic production methods like those in the automotive industry. Mott MacDonald applied building information modeling (BIM) to a detailed 3D model developed in close collaboration with the architect, the client’s staff, the building services designer, and Laing O’Rourke’s fabrication supply chain.

The components for Royal Victoria Hospital had almost no exposed reinforcement, but were fabricated with matching sockets. Steel dowels were inserted into these and cement grout poured around them to form a permanent connection. The grout cured within hours, allowing quick construction.


The 3D design allowed health service staff to visualize the facility and comment on the layout during the early design stages. At the factory, dimensions, and structural information from the 3D model became reference points for production. Reinforcement was cut, bent and laid out robotically. Concrete was mixed to the right strength in precisely the right quantities, eliminating waste.

The schedule was reduced from an estimated 110 weeks using traditional techniques to 90 weeks, allowing the hospital to take shape with amazing speed. The manufacture and assembly process also delivered outstanding safety performance.

Considerate Contractors, a body promoting higher standards in the construction industry, gave the project its highest award: Gold.

bathroom pods delivered
ready to connect
weeks cut from construction schedule
modeling allows hospital staff to visualize facility

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