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Dr Rabiya Zia

Dr Rabiya Zia

Area of study
Systems and culture
Fellowship level
Year awarded
Host university
Department of Architecture
University of Cambridge
Rabiya is a multi-disciplinary scientist who has a BSc in Biomedical Sciences, MSc in Virology and a PhD in computational medicine from Imperial College London. She started her post-doctoral training at the University of Cambridge in 2019 in the department of medicine before moving to the department of architecture in 2020.
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Safe sustainable surgical theatre design in a modern NHS – through collaborative engagement between architects, scientists and surgical healthcare professionals


Most NHS operating theatres (OTs) were built in the 1960s and the designs have remained largely the same and not kept up with the technological developments in surgery. These OTs have high carbon ventilation systems, which despite popular belief, provide little evidence of reducing surgical site infection (SSI) transmission. SSIs are a major cause of patient morbidity and mortality and are associated with significant healthcare costs and occur in approximately 9% of patients. Therefore, the risk of SSI transmission needs to be minimised from a patient safety perspective. OTs are also a major source of CO2 emissions, making surgery one of the most resource intensive healthcare activities in the NHS, producing an estimated 0.6 million tons of CO2 per year. More sustainable OTs are required to help the NHS reduce its carbon footprint in line with its 2050 sustainability target.


This project will generate support for safer more sustainable NHS operating theatres for future hospitals and retrofitting existing hospitals by:

  1. Examining the importance of ventilation in maintaining low levels of anaesthetic gases through a literature review to support new safer sustainable ventilation designs being developed in the group.
  2. Conducting qualitative interviews with surgical healthcare professionals to develop an in depth understanding of their views on safety in the operating theatre.
  3. Showcasing new OT designs developed in architecture and engineering to surgical healthcare professionals and patients to elicit both in depth and broader feedback on sustainable OT designs, including green ventilation.
  4. Presenting these key findings to key stakeholders in architecture and hospital design stimulating round table discussion
Take part in this project

We are interviewing senior surgeons, anaesthetists, theatre nurses and operating department practitioners about perspectives on how future operating theatres should be designed.

Email us to take part

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