Bringing new life to the Braemar courtyard

While Braemar was closed for the Christmas break, a transformation was taking place on the upper floor.

Garden 1A courtyard area between patients’ rooms, previously almost devoid of plant life, was being transformed into a green sanctuary, with Nikau palms, native grasses and river rocks.

The development is part of Braemar Hospital’s commitment to achieve “an environment more akin to a restful hotel than a traditional hospital.” It is also part of the hospital’s commitment to a “green” environment. The hospital is the first green-rated hospital in New Zealand, with a comparative rating of 4 out of a possible five stars based on the Australian green-rating system.
Braemar commissioned landscape designer Mark Sherson to come up with a design that would be simple, manageable and with an “X factor” in keeping with the hospital’s elegant design and layout.

Braemar chief executive Paul Bennett said Mark provided “a perfect mix of listening to the client, adding value with his design ideas and providing concept plans that fit the brief.”

“We love the finished design. It is amazing.”

Mark Sherson, who owns Higher Ground Landscapes Ltd (, and had previously done work on the entranceway to Braemar, said he was delighted to be asked to submit a design.

“It was logistically challenging. Every item had to be transported by service lifts to the first floor. That meant more than 100 trips transporting river rocks, sand, plants and paving stones.”

Tonnes of product was transported by trolley, barrow and by hand.

Mark Sherson says the design was simple and in keeping with Braemar’s brief, focusing on “natural colours, native plants and geometric paving.”

The 150sq m space was first lined with a waterproof membrane protection to protect the existing waterproofed surface. Pre-built timber platforms were used as a base for the pavers. The quadrant s between the pavers were filled with medium river stones and 400 native plants (Phormium and carex), creating the impression of a geometric garden. Large river stones (up to 100mm) and Nikau palms were added as larger visual features. Climbers have been planted alongside the base of large free-standing screens that give privacy to patients with rooms bordering the courtyard.

The work had to be completed within a fortnight while Braemar was closed for the Christmas break.

Mark Sherson said it was a marathon effort to complete it on time. “It was hard to estimate the time it would take to transport all the elements to the site. In the end we finished the day before Braemar was due to open again.”

Garden 2

He says he is pleased with the finished work. “It gives the impression of full-depth landscaping. In reality all plants are contained in pots.”
The environment’s role in the delivery of patient care is well-documented and is a subject of growing interest to hospital planners, transforming how hospitals are designed and built. Views of nature and access to natural light are known to reduce stress and promote healing, offering “pleasurable distractions.”

Art is also plays a part in healing within hospital settings and helps to address fear and anxiety. Braemar has more than 100 pieces of art hung throughout the hospital, many the work of Waikato artists.

Improving the patient’s experience is paramount for the hospital. Paul Bennett says every effort is made to make patients feel at home and recover.

Braemar is now New Zealand’s second-largest private hospital on a single site. The hospital has served the region for more than 85 years. 

A Green Hospital

Braemar’s green features include:

• Solar water heating and solar panels
• High efficiency lighting
• Optimal insulation
• Efficient chillers and boilers
• Healthy materials
• Low VOC paints
• Sustainably sourced finishing timbers and veneers
• Maximum use of natural light with windows in operating theatres, roof lights and
   internal courtyards
• Matting made from recycled car tyres
• Carpet tiles with recycled content
• On-site waste management plan