Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital has been presented with a prestigious Engineering Heritage Award by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers which recognises its engineering importance as the first public building in the UK to be air-conditioned. The ceremony was held recently. The hospital’s pioneering ventilation system fed clean air through a 400-foot-long duct to the wards, and temperature and humidity were controlled for the benefit of patients. The air conditioning system is the 122nd Engineering Heritage Award to be presented by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The awards, established in 1984, aim to promote artefacts, sites or landmarks of significant engineering importance – past and present. Previous winners of Engineering Heritage Awards include Alan Turing’s Bombe at Bletchley Park, the E-Type Jaguar and Concorde. Other recipients from Northern Ireland include the Short SC1 VTOL aircraft, a single-seat, low-wing, tailless delta wing aircraft, which is located in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. John Wood, Chair of the Engineering Heritage Committee and Past President, said: “In 1903, the Royal Victoria Hospital’s plenum air-conditioning system was the most advanced in any hospital in the UK. The system is a milestone history of environmental engineering, cleaning the air and controlling both temperature and humidity in the hospital for the comfort of staff and patients. This award recognises a pioneering engineering system in a hospital that has been at the forefront of medicine and medical technology for over 100 years.”