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Innovative drying room in UZ Ghent spoils cyclists in the rain

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The University Hospital in Ghent (UZ Ghent) installed a drying room to dry wet bicycle and motorcycle clothing in a sustainable and efficient way. Putting on cold, clammy raincoats and trousers after a long day at work is definitely a thing of the past. This drying room is exclusive for our country and a nice initiative to pamper the cycling employees during the harsh winter weather!

Leestijd: 3 min

UZ Ghent is fan of an active cycling culture, because employees who cycle have a physical and mental advantage. Regular exercise is therefore a major advantage for caregivers who give the best of themselves day in and day out. In addition, traffic and parking problems in and around the hospital are greatly reduced when more people pedal to work.

Everyone on that bike

“There are several ways to get more staff on their bicycle”, explains Stijn Van Daele, Service Manager Mobility and Security at UZ Ghent. “First and foremost, at UZ Ghent, we invest in a safe shelter for bicycles. Especially now that more people come to work with more expensive models such as speed pedelecs and electric bicycles, a place where you can safely store your bicycle is essential. We have several covered bicycle sheds with badge and camera surveillance throughout the campus. More electric two-wheelers means more batteries and more need for recharging facilities. We therefore plan to equip bicycle sheds with charging lockers in the future.”

In addition to the bicycle, the cyclist’s comfort also deserves attention: as such they have a bicycle shed with a bicycle pump and socket at UZ Ghent, and in the past they organized a winter campaign with hot drinks like coffee and chocolate. And now there’s the drying room. “With this initiative, we want to put the people who continue to cycle in bad weather in the spotlight and lower the threshold for taking the bicycle when it rains”, emphasizes Stijn.

Goodbye wet cycling clothes

Sometimes a good idea comes at the right time and Stijn can only confirm that: “During a meeting of the Mobility Working Group, we came up with the plan to do something for our cycling employees in the rain. The concept of a drying room was born and we got the inspiration from campers who dry wet clothes in a separate room after a hike. Practical and efficient!”

The entire plan could count on support from the management and departments. The final push came with the financial support of the Bashir Abdi Fund, which supports welfare initiatives for healthcare providers. With a beautiful story as a result: UZ Ghent that rewards its cycling staff and offers extra comfort. Because cycling in the rain is so much easier if you can put on dry clothes afterwards.

Swedish top technology

Such a state-of-the-art drying room is a wonderful concept! But how do you get started? “Thanks to a number of Scandinavian practical examples, we found the company Munters Belgium with headquarters in Sweden, specialized in drying clothes in a sustainable and efficient way”, explains architect Stefanie Demedts, Project Manager Space Management and Project Definition of UZ Ghent. Munters’ system extracts moisture from the air and blows dry air back into the room. In combination with the installed ceiling fans, the job is done in a few hours. “Perfect for our purpose! We have a lot of caregivers who work in a short shift and they also want dry clothes”, clarifies Stefanie. “From cycling clothing, a motorcycle suit to jeans, we strive to have everything dry in about four hours. This drying room simulates a dry and windy day, the ideal climate for drying clothes quickly, and is more energy efficient than a tumble dryer.”

The entire installation is very energy- and maintenance-friendly. There are motion sensors so that the ventilation stops temporarily when someone enters the room. In addition, the device continuously monitors the relative humidity in the room. If it is low enough, the system will go into standby mode. And the maintenance? This is limited to the annual replacement of the air filters.

“We also thought about safety: together with ADS Technology from Merelbeke, we designed the layout of the room with a focus on durability and comfort for the user. We hang the clothes on hangers neatly next to each other and provide a cable to run through the clothes; with a lock around it, the employees secure everything nicely. Furthermore, individual lockers have been installed to safely store, for example, a bicycle helmet or wet shoes. The room is also equipped with a camera and badge system. This way the caregivers can leave everything behind with peace of mind and put on dry clothes a few hours later”, says Stefanie. What a service!

Looking ahead

What brings the future? Stijn explains: “Today, a group of 15% already comes to UZ Ghent by bicycle, these are employees who use the bicycle as their main means of transport and who come at least 3 out of 5 days by bike. We want to increase this number of cyclists and even reduce the number of cars from 65% to 47% in the coming years. An ambitious plan! The recently launched bicycle leasing with o2o will help us to achieve this, because employees spread the costs for a more expensive bike thanks to their bicycle leasing budget. So even people who live a little further away will be able to commute easily on their fast electric bicycle or speed pedelec.”

The reactions of the staff are positive and many employees find their way to the drying room when it rains. But what about capacity? “Currently there is room for about 250 users in the drying room”, tells Stefanie. “If we also take into account the different shifts, this comes to an average of 500 people per day. To sum up, a lot of dry clothes! In the future, we plan a second drying room in the hospital at the level of the policlinics to serve all healthcare providers.”

As a staff member in this Ghent hospital, you will soon have no more excuses – you have to come by bicycle when it rains!

Inspired by the story of UZ Ghent?

Does a drying room sound like something to you as an extra reward for your cycling colleagues who pedal in the rain? Together with Customer Success manager Jeroen, we look for a practical and feasible solution.

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