“A hospital is the site of some of our best and worst life experiences, the site of birth and death, healing and loss. Of all public buildings, they should be the ones that are built with the greatest care and imagination.”
– MUF Architecture cited in CABE Radical Improvements in Hospital Design: Healthy Hospitals Campaign Report, London: Commission for Architecture and The Built
Environment, 01 November 2003.
Can a well-designed building impact a person’s health positively? Director Basil Vogas at Silver Thomas Hanley, a Perth-based specialist health design practice, believes the answer to this question is yes.
“The best healing space is one that balances the needs of patients with those of caregivers,” says Mr Vogas.
“A warm, welcoming, familiar and comfortable space for patients is essential in creating a space conducive to healing.”
“Caregivers are key to the healing process so meeting their functional and operational needs is just as important.”
Architects consider a number of factors to achieve such an environment. Spaces that support privacy and dignity, and which are also welcoming to families and friends, can create a setting in which patients are comfortable and secure.
Architects seek the advice of qualified acoustic engineers to help design spaces that control sound and unwanted noise. Material selection is also critical in the reduction of noise.
Perth architect Ally Devellerez specializes in health care architecture and says spaces with good visual access to nature and which maximise natural light are vital.
“Physical access to outdoor areas can enable patients can go outside and breathe fresh air,” says Ms Devellerez.
Ms Devellerez says design must also support best practice infection control principles.
“This will make it easy for staff to follow hospital policy, such as good access to hand washing facilities and material selection to support ease of cleaning and reduce maintenance.”
Environments which encourage staff to collaborate can form hubs for interdisciplinary discussions and “nooks” along corridors for informal, “chance” exchanges.
Research on the impact of colour and art on the healing and recovery of patients is ongoing but the correct and considered use of colour in hospitals is vitally important and complex.
Basil Vogas says colour has an effect on people’s psyche and behaviour yet more definitive evidence is being sought on how and which colours directly affect healing.
“We know that certain colours affect behaviour for example; reds and yellows can foster socialisation and creative activity while greens and blues assist quiet concentration and calm,” says Mr Vogas.
“However the impact of colour is greatly affected by other factors such as contrast, saturation, age, religion, culture and demographics.”
Colour and art can affect a patient’s perception through distraction. A carefully designed waiting room with appropriate colours and artwork can affect a patient’s perception of time and reduce the anxiety and distress related to waiting. Colour also assists in wayfinding by providing easy to follow clues for navigation.
As health facilities expand over time, architects consider future growth to ensure the facility continues to contribute positively to the health of the community.
“The hospital is an essential part of the community fabric and a social beacon of care and humanity,” says Mr Vogas.
“Its design and philosophy should reflect the community values and aspirations.”