Healthcare real estate is taking on a new look. In addition to incorporating homey, residential designs, new healthcare facilities are incorporating more natural elements with plants, natural shapes and water features. Known as biophilia, natural design elements can help to reduce stress and promote healing.
“Most of us appreciate how meaningful a connection to nature can be. Studies have indicated that it can help reduce stress, enhance concentration and boost job satisfaction,” Kellie Reed, director of healthcare at Tangram Interiors, tells GlobeSt.com. “So what can incorporating the “outside” into healthcare facilities accomplish? Positive effects can include distraction from the overall stress of undergoing a health issue, visiting the doctor or staying in the hospital as well as anxiety reduction, mood elevation and even pain management.”
New healthcare facilities are adopting biophilia in new ways. “Today’s approach to biophilia goes beyond simply bringing in a few plants to place around the room and toward activities that appeal to all our senses,” says Reed. “Textiles using patterns, colors, materials and textures can bring natural shapes and images into spaces that create a calming effect.”
Biophilia isn’t only about bringing in the outdoors in, but also about filling rooms with warm natural elements, which is a stark contract to the cold, sterile environments for which hospitals have become known. “Natural surfaces like wood can humanize spaces,” says Reed. “Water features add smooth motion and a comforting sound. Gardens can produce pleasing smells. Terraces, balconies and courtyards can function as areas for recharging and meditation.”
The trend toward more natural and highly designed spaces is a new trend in healthcare, but it is a trend for the long term. “Interior environments are also being transformed in response to trends including new approaches to patient care and interaction, considerations for families and other visitors, operational efficiencies, and productivity for doctors and nurses,” says Reed. “The ultimate objective is to create humanized environments that optimize healing.”
This can be a design challenge for architects to create a warm space that also meets the functional needs of the facility. “Healthcare facilities encompass a broad set of spaces, each with its own requirements and opportunities for enhancement,” says Reed. “Architectural and design firms are collaborating with specialists in interiors to develop groundbreaking solutions for these challenging environments.”