Design and Health World Health Design

Standpoint: What's out there

Increasing emphasis placed by healthcare organisations on the implementation of evidence-based design principles in their capital projects supports architects’ long-standing efforts to deliver integrated ‘indoor-outdoor’ designs.

Most Prime Consultant RFPs (Requests for Proposal) for significant healthcare developments now allude to these principles, and require a commitment to patient-centered design respectful of the theories of Dr Roger Ulrich and similar studies. While often difficult to quantify, as the number of variables abound in the healthcare setting, ample anecdotal evidence suggests a relationship between a serene, empowering daylight-filled therapeutic setting and the speed or efficacy of the healing process.

The University of Alberta’s ground-breaking 1100-bed Walter C Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre, designed by the Zeidler Partnership in the 1980s, gave support to this theory. A Zeidler innovation in the healthcare setting, the atrium concept succeeded in bringing the outdoors in by delivering a light-filled, temperate, tree-lined space which was now usable 24/7. By virtue of these attributes, most well-designed atria evolve to become the animated hub of the hospitals they serve. Zeidler’s successful atrium at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children reinforces this pattern.

More recently, healthcare organisations have recognised the value of a sensitive and sustainable landscape design. Not content to limit ‘greening’ to interior spaces, St. Joseph’s Healthcare (Hamilton) has championed the value-added contribution of a world-class landscape architect (Andropogon Associates of Pennsylvania) as part of the redevelopment of its mountain campus. Zeidler has positioned Andropogon as an equal design partner through all stages of building and site planning to ensure not only the ubiquitous "seamless integration of indoor and outdoor spaces" but also the creation of meaningful outdoor therapeutic spaces.

In Victoria BC, the Vancouver Island Health Authority has designated as Pacific Green an initiative to reclaim and protect its site throughout the development of a new 500-bed patient care centre. This concept is one of three fundamental principles which underscore its vision. Programme spaces were mandated for distinct patient, staff and visitor populations. Staff considerations include meaningful and quality views of these spaces from above in addition to a tactile experience in situ. Patient access to spectacular mountain views has been upheld as inherent in enhancing the patient experience. Informed healthcare organisations, the ‘early adopters’ of evidence-based design theories, now encourage not only the implementation of basic principles, but also the exploration of opportunities on and around their sites.

Ron Nemeth, B. Arch. OAQ, OAA, AAA is a partner at Zeidler Partnership Architects

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