Building Environments that Heal

Healthcare building—here’s why we love it. It’s a solid contribution to healing environments. These healthy locations are proven to reduce patients’ anxiety, hasten recovery and shorten hospital stays. As part of a “blended medicinal” approach that combines traditional health-care with alternative styles, a healing environment can be highly therapeutic. An added benefit is staff related. A fit place to work enhances employee recruitment and satisfaction having a positive influence on retention rates.

The National Institute of Building Sciences insists “The effects can be positive or negative. No environment is neutral.” This from their Whole Building Design Guide,

Patients in a healthcare facility are often fearful and uncertain about their health, their safety, and their isolation from normal social relationships. The large, complex environment of a typical hospital further contributes to the stressful situation. Stress can cause a person’s immune system to be suppressed, and can dampen a person’s emotional and spiritual resources, impeding recovery and healing.

A well-designed (and well-built) healing environment can include comfortable areas that offer easy seating for visiting family members. It’s well documented that more family involvement is valuable to patient care. Any good healthcare remodeler can easily accommodate most spaces.  

Mother Nature is also a giant force in the healing process! That position is corroborated by The Center for Health Design. Wherever possible, views of nature from patient rooms and public spaces should be considered throughout the healthcare design.

Fountains aid the healing process

Fountains aid the healing process

Roof gardens and aquariums or even a layout that offers a view of trees is a big plus. On a simpler note and perhaps less costly nature art is a step in the right direction. Soothing colors also go a long way to providing a place to recoup one’s strength.

Big considerations often overlooked are environmental stressors. Noise is a culprit that is mitigated through acoustical treatments like rubber flooring or carpeting. Fountains are a great source of natural movement and bring a restorative audio component to the area. Poor air quality and excessive glare hamper the healing process.

Finally, providing a sense of control for hospital guests is a simple remodeling process that reinforces treatment. Here’s some examples.

Visual Clarity

·        From signage to landscaping “wayfinding” can really add value to the experience. Families and patients should be guided through the building with lack of stress

Illumination Control

·        Lighting with dimmers, night lights and reading lights foster a sense of confidence in patients who find themselves in anxious situations.

The well-documented thoughts above are the “tip of the recovery iceberg” but it merits saying. Our privilege to better environments, to strengthen patient’s ability to cope and recover isn’t something we take lightly.

The medical man himself, Hippocrates said, “Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” The best part of this job? We get the opportunity.     

JP Carlton

J.P. Carlton

J.P. Carlton is the founder of Carlton Building Services, a Hampton Roads-based construction company.