HLM Design’s £50m hospital redevelopment aims to export private finance initiative expertise to South Africa.
HLM Design is planning the redevelopment of one of the world’s biggest hospitals in South Africa in a bid to exploit its experience of the private finance initiative outside the UK.

The PFI specialist is in the early stages of planning a £50m redevelopment of Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, a scheme that also involves Taylor Woodrow and financial consultant KPMG. This is the first time that a UK architect has taken the lead role in a PFI-style scheme abroad.

HLM has also formed a joint venture with South African architect Stejn Viljoen, called HLMSV, to expand the PFI to other public sector schemes in South Africa. Stejn Viljoen made the initial approach to the British practice to work on the Soweto scheme.

Design director Leslie Welch said the Soweto scheme could be the start of an export explosion for the PFI. “We believe the UK PFI experience is exportable abroad, particularly in Africa and further afield,” he said.

HLM is now hoping that a feasibility study for the scheme will receive funding from the Department of Trade and Industry or the South African government. Welch said: “I think the South African government has accepted the PFI principle. It has now got to get to the next stage.” He added that the hospital redevelopment would have to be carried out as a PFI scheme because the South African government lacked sufficient funds to finance the project itself.

Welch said: “At the time, there was a difficulty with the size and the complexity of the problems with the site and how to approach them. We have tried to be a catalyst for new ideas.”

The firm has spent a year producing a research study for the hospital, which it outlined to government officials earlier this month.

Welch said the vast hospital site was unsuitable for modern healthcare. Problems include the dilapidated state of the buildings, some of which were temporary structures, and the large number of patients who come to the hospital without appointments. He said: “There need to be improved facilities with fewer beds. The way they use the beds is not really planned.”

HLM is looking at reducing the number of beds from 3500 to about 2000 and splitting services between a 1000-bed unit at the main site and smaller specialist health centres, such as an AIDS clinic, around Soweto.

HLM’s African venture follows an announcement earlier this month that it plans to float on the stock exchange under a new name, RockArchimedia. It will become only the second UK architect to be quoted on the exchange.