The Hues of Healthcare


Hues of Healthcare photoWhat is the Purpose of Color in the Design of a Healthcare Facility?

I have been to a number of healthcare facilities recently and have been noticing the colors used inside these facilities. Some are bland and have a singularly-developed color palette, whereas others have a bolder use of colors and textures.

In wondering on this topic, I began to question if color was really the issue. It has not been significantly proven that one or another color will increase healing within a healthcare setting. Specific colors or textures have not been significantly proven more effective in a healthcare setting than others. So the question becomes why the predominant lack of colors and textures?

I am not sure of the answers others may give to their decisions but I have looked closely at this issue and know my answer. Color and textures can and should be used in a way to give patients and families hope and peace in their time of concern. In the moment health is a concern, we should all be given an atmosphere of comfort and home… and hope… and the possibility of a great future, not a sterile, clinical place that focuses us on our current concern and condition.

Color Brings Us Home

The issue of finishes in a healthcare environment do involve disease control, transmission of infections, etc. But they must be addressed. I contend this can be done and still use spectacular colors and textures to calm and nurture us. To bring us home.

The colors and textures to be used are cultural and local to each of us. The feelings created by color are reflective of who we are and where we are from. Our senses and the influence of nature play a large part in how we see things as well. I would challenge our healthcare designers, and myself, to start with hope, and what the heart sees in completing our designs.

Let’s bring back a sense of place and locality and home and push back the coldness of disease. Let us hear color and feel joy in our healthcare environments. Let us elevate our experience through color and texture in healthcare settings to bring hope and healing to providers and patients.

The True Purpose of Technology in Design

Digitally generated hologram of city in clouds on blue backgroundI was recently reading on the different technologies and their use in design, specifically for health care. As I read through them I kept thinking, “we do that.” We use gaming software technology to make your building into a package you can walk through. We use drones to do roof analysis and inspections. We use BIM software to identify various materials and key interference areas of a project. We use 3-d rendering to show the sequence of construction over time. We use the cloud to allow project data to be transferred anywhere in the world for review. My final thoughts were I wish someone would impress me!

The Role of Technology

I realized the use of technology is impressive only the day you see it. After that day it simply becomes a tool. The building of health care faculties is extremely complex and does require a lot of tools to coordinate and define for construction. The role of these tools is to convey information, to give others a clearer look into the mind of the designer. And this may or may not be a good thing.

A Shift in Focus

All the focus on technology sometimes reduces our attention on the people we are building for. Technology helps convey our design, but can’t convey what isn’t. It can’t show what is possible, what is so grand and wondrous that we haven’t thought of it yet. Technological limitations disconnect our design from innovative imagination and creativity. Technology can’t allow us to smell and hear what a building will be like after it is built. Some of the greatest buildings ever were built with extremely limited technology. No one knew exactly what it would look like before embarking on their journey of construction. But they envisioned something grand and wondrous!

Achieving Our Objective

Our healthcare-built environments serve those in need. I think we should focus on bringing them joy and gladness in their time of need. Technology limits us from accomplishing this goal innovatively. Yet these should be things we strive for, things we seek more than any other. Technology is great for “show and tell” when speaking to others and is great for developing plans for construction, but maybe not for the creation of innovative design.

The wonder of what can be is not something technology can create. And we can only create this greatness by focusing on those using the buildings. We work hard to create a sense of wonder and hope. What a joy it is to think on these things. And what a great world it is when we can use technology to convey those ideas!

Healthcare Design- Green is the Gold Standard

White Hospital

Everybody loves a winner.

In particular, we admire skilled individuals and professional organizations that distinguish themselves through extra effort. They appear on magazine covers. They win championship rings. They might even earn a medal or two.

With the growing interest in sustainable design, those devoted to design and environmental excellence earn special certification. They work hard for it.

And their projects comprise a unique group.

I applaud them for their efforts. Now, take your hands and count your fingers. Eight fingers and two thumbs? Yeah, well . . . that may be more than the total number granted the elite LEED for Healthcare Gold Certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) in the United States. That’s right. It’s an elite group.

They are all winners, and worthy of our recognition.

Want to earn a LEED for Healthcare Gold Certification for your healthcare facility? We have learned from a few of those who’ve been recognized for design excellence. Follow the path established for everyone. Go for it! Earn your accolades too.

Design Excellence in Mid-South Suburburbia

Once upon a time, residents of Olive Branch, Mississippi drove into the neighboring city of Memphis, Tennessee for their weekend shopping. Suburban growth essentially connects the two now, so this community was a natural choice for a new branch of the river city’s family of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare facilities.

As the local newspaper proclaimed, the recently completed Olive Branch Hospital is “the first in-patient health care facility in the United States to achieve a LEED for Healthcare Gold Certification.”

So, how did they do it?

As noted in Healthcare Design Magazine, innovations were the norm throughout the new facility.

  • Geothermal heat pumps use the ground as a heat sink to cool and heat the hospital
  • External Dynamic Glass (from View, Inc.) adjusts incoming natural light, and reduces heat and glare
  • Over 80 percent of all construction waste was recycled
  • Lean construction practices delivered this project ahead of schedule and below budget

Showcasing LEED in the Show-Me State

Columbia, Missouri is a city of 115,000 people. The centerpiece of Boone County near the Northern Plains region of the Show Me State, a haven for educational leadership and industrial progress. And a respected healthcare hub in the region.

This past spring, the University of Missouri Health Care’s latest and largest expansion earned LEED Gold Certification.

As was the case in Mississippi, innovative design practices held sway in Missouri. Again, Healthcare Design Magazine lists the many sustainable approaches used. Among them are the following.

  • Roof gardens to provide patients with a view of nature
  • Contractors used recycled material from recently demolished dorms
  • The building skin was designed to reduce thermal transfer, using an open joint rainscreen system
  • Interior lights and water fixtures automatically turn themselves on and off
  • Patient room windows allow abundant natural light and give patients a view of the landscaped gardens from their beds

LEED Gold Just Miles from South Beach

The state of Florida has fortunately been spared major hurricane damage for nearly a decade now. But it doesn’t mean that architects, contractors and property owners take anything for granted. They don’t.

The best of new facility designs follow environmentally sound standards, but architects must think about potential wind and water damage too. We also consider the possibility of extended power outages.

Completed in 2011, the Miami based West Kendall Baptist Hospital received LEED Gold Certification.

The hospital was also built to withstand wind and water from a Category 5 hurricane and included passive survivability features.

  • Its energy plant can sustain service for an entire week
  • On-site lakes handle water retention and provide water for all site irrigation

Setting New Standards

The established standards for LEED Certification are high. They should be. Points are awarded for each of the various aspects of a project. Accumulating 50 points achieves Silver Certification. Gold requires more than 60.

Every aspect of a property is assessed during the verification process.

  • Integrative design process
  • Location and transportation
  • Materials and resources
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy and atmosphere
  • Sustainability
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Innovation, and more

In northern Mississippi, in Missouri, and in south Florida, owners and architects, committed to excellence in LEED design, have developed award-winning healthcare sustainable projects. Each is a perfect example of the finest in LEED for Healthcare Certification.

With the LEED Gold certification … Communities win. Healthcare facilities win. Most of all, patients win.

By enhancing our quality of life, LEED Gold recipients deserve recognition. They’ve earned it.

4 Ways to Connect Patient Health and Healthy Design

Hospital lake

You’ve heard the patient complaints many times.

If you’ve been a patient in your own healthcare facility, you’ve even complained yourself.

“Your hospital is too noisy, either too dark or too bright, and just plain sterile. If I get any chance to look outside, all I see is concrete. How am I supposed to get well in an environment like this?”

What a great question.

Fortunately, hospital administrators, architects, designers and product manufacturers are listening. Caring for patients has always been a top priority. And today, caring healthcare environments is too.

It’s a Matter of Simple Biology

Thirty years ago, E. O. Wilson popularized the term biophilia to describe human interaction with nature. Critics of naturalist Wilson’s concepts are easy to find. So are those who wisely incorporate some of his ideas into their building designs. Today, we thread biophilic design principles throughout structures devoted to human wellness.

A natural environment relieves stress and promotes healing.

Patients have directed healthcare professionals to ask the same kinds of questions patients ask of them. “What can we do about noise, light and this clinical environment?” So, what does the latest research tell us about adaptive technology, natural environments, and the need to create the healthiest spaces for patients?

1.          Fix the Noise Problem

Is it necessary to hear nurse station conversations in each patient room? Must patients listen to gatherings of professionals and visitors in the halls? And what about noisy equipment? Can anything be done about it?

One acoustic engineering firm suggests that, by following LEED for Healthcare guidelines, architects can do a great deal to address noise concerns. They recommend the following:

  • Isolate sound between rooms
  • Control background noise levels
  • Adjust time reverberation within interior spaces
  • Minimize exterior noise inside the patient rooms

Correcting noise problems even aids in patient privacy, a related benefit and potential HIPPA concern.

Healthcare architects pay special attention to room arrangements and the location of plumbing fixtures. The location of nurse stations, break rooms and elevator banks, wall finishes recommendations and selected textures and soundproofing. In addition, product manufacturers create materials especially conducive to comfort and privacy, advancing the healing process.

2.          Enhance Artificial Light

Typically patient rooms have provided subdued lighting, created shadows and inadequately lit patient, visitor and attendant areas. Corners are generally dark and visitors often chat from the shadows. But opening curtains and shades can often yield too much light, even when patients want the outside in.

And yet, that natural, outside light offers the promise of healing.

The human body tends to respond positively to natural light. Employing the principles of dynamic lighting, the Philips HealWell lighting system creates an indoor environment that replicates natural light and is adjustable. Patients and staff can flood a room with healing natural light or limit it. They can pick and choose to control they room.

  • The system can be set to mimic the properties of Dawn, Mid-afternoon or Dusk.
  • And the system can certainly be set to replicate Night.

3.         Refine Natural Light

To address the concerns of natural light special glass can control the amount of natural light allowed into patient rooms from the outside. As the manufacturers note, the benefits are many.

  • Dynamic Glass responds to the outside world
  • Tints are variable and controllable
  • Various building facades can even be programmed differently, in rotation with the movement of the sun to manage natural light throughout the day.

Letting in the healing power of natural light—and the ability to control it—assists in patient comfort and healing. And letting in an outdoor view can even ease stress.

4.          Bring the Natural World to View

Anyone who knows the urban landscape has experienced a typical view: Look out the window and gaze directly into an apartment or office across the way. Maybe there’s nothing but a brick wall. You might even be greeted by a row of turbines, transformers or generators.

Patients in recovery want to be reminded of what awaits them when they leave. The joy of being outside. A chance to walk down the street. To enjoy a breeze. Flowers still growing in damp earth.

What if patients could enjoy a view of that future—the anticipated beauty of the natural environment.

Many can, and many do.

A recent issue of Medical Construction and Design Magazine (MCD) reminded me of the healing properties of the natural world. “Our natural love for life helps us sustain life.”

As the editors noted, “Almost every modern cancer center integrates some type of healing or meditation garden into its design in order to incorporate the life-affirming benefits of connecting with nature into the continuum of care.”

Recovering stroke patients often have to walk sterile halls in austere facilities. Adding an indoor atrium, complete with healthy plants and flower gardens can stimulate healing, just as outdoor gardens and shaded seating areas promote healing for those able walk outside.

As healthcare administrators and architects regularly implement biophilic design ideas, the benefits of a truly healing environment bear fruit.

Restoring patient health is the goal of every healthcare worker.

We create healthy environment to help in this endeavor.

Hospital Design: First Impressions Matter

I have been going to various medical centers recently and have begun to notice a difference in the “welcome”. Many folks would assume the patient experience starts with the Doctor visit but I don’t think it does. I’m convinced the patient experience starts at the driveway entrance to the facility. Just like anticipation and excitement builds inside you when you approach your favorite restaurant, anxiety and tension start when you get to a medical center. By the time you actually get inside the front doors you are already anxious, tense and nervous.

The parking lot, exterior landscaping, signage, security guard booth, these elements are all opportunities to create a sense of calm for you. And these are not particularly expensive options, at least not compared to hospital construction. Beautiful and seasonal flowers in a nicely landscaped bed, thoughtful sidewalks and walking paths, well maintained and trimmed trees can all help to reduce the stress level in those of us going to a medical center. And this stress reduction can increase healing and improve wellness. But more importantly, I think a great “welcome” can remind us life is worth living.