Past, present and future of hospital design
Hospital design plays a critical role in providing high-quality, cost-effective facilities for any healthcare system. That’s why it is so important to understand how hospitals are designed and the influence of architecture on people’s health.
The numbers are not promising: according to a recent study, in Spain only 48% of professionals who design hospitals have received specific training for this. This study concludes that the healthcare architecture of both Italy and Spain, where the research has taken place, could be improved by promoting multidisciplinary teams and improving the educational offer so that it adapts to national needs.
Beyond these figures, what is not questionable is that a hospital is one of the most complex buildings in existence.
We know that the main objective of hospital architecture is to optimize the design so that the hospital is as safe, efficient and intelligent as possible. However, you only need to take a look at health centers anywhere in the world to understand that this is not achieved in so many cases.
The fact that hospital architecture can literally improve the lives of its patients, and that aspects such as spaces, color or luminosity influence the mood and the perception of the body itself, hospital architecture seems to be one of the most relevant paradigms of the future of societies.
© Copyright. MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital
Improve hospitals after Covid-19
Infected patients mixed with healthy people, corridors where there is no room for a pin, outdated spaces without the ability to adapt … The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the logistical problems that threaten the viability of hospitals around the world.
A situation that has brought to debate the need to design hospitals based on much greater prior research and putting the patient and health personnel in the center of all eyes.
In this regard, strategies such as using horizontal volumes to better control infectious outbreaks, making the building and its spaces more flexible to be able to react to supine changes in needs, or the separation of circulations so as not to mix personnel and possible infected, seem vital.
The basic point is to understand that the recovery of patients goes through studying the potential offered by the architectural design of hospitals.
© Copyright. EKH Children’s Hospital
In recent months, a group of researchers from the Polytechnic University of Madrid, together with the Carlos III Health Institute, have developed a tool capable of analyzing and evaluating the environmental and functional quality of hospital units. A process through which the potential offered by the architectural design of the center in the recovery of patients can be studied, without forgetting the consequences in economic terms that it can have for hospitals.
This evaluation of the architectural design of hospitals is carried out using the methodology of “evidence-based design”. Its objective is to establish a direct relationship between the design strategies that are followed in the construction of the centers and the medical results.
When the journal Science, 40 years ago, echoed the first study that showed that patients who had views of green environments from the hospital room reported fewer stays in the center and less use of painkillers, the first stone was laid of the # 1 trend in the future of hospital design: Biophilia. That is to say: betting on spaces where nature and light are incorporated naturally into each health center, only results in improvements at all levels.
Thus, achieving a safe and comfortable healthcare environment is complemented by sustainable design, adding value to the building, reducing operating costs and contributing to the recovery of the patient.
Considerations and trends in the design of health centers
The main trend in hospital design, and especially in residences for the elderly, is the humanization of spaces through architecture and interior design.
Visual comfort, ambient warmth and friendly aesthetics cannot be the exception but rather the general rule.
Along with comfort, it is mandatory to help patients feel their best thanks to the sanitary space. Design collaborates with this, for example, with theming in the design of children’s hospitals, either globally or by specific areas. In this regard, the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital in Barcelona has redesigned different areas of equipment to care for sick children, taking inspiration from NASA and the space for scanner rooms.
Without a doubt, the ideal model currently being sought is the sustainable one, often based on 30/30/30: increase energy efficiency by 30%, reduce energy consumption by 30% and use a proportion of renewable energy in the energy mix up to 30%.
© Copyright. Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
Faced with new trends, we must work on the main concepts to consider when building a health center:
- The perfect planning of buildings, resistant, flexible and prepared for any eventuality.
- Think about the total design (operating rooms, laboratories, administrative areas) and leaving room for possible future modifications
- Equipment and ideal environment of the rooms, putting the patient in focus, and without forgetting his companions.
- Decoration and aesthetics thoughtful and always pleasant.
Steps to Design a Hospital
The great processes of transformation of medicine and society, as well as the technological changes that have been modernizing health services, have not always been coupled with adequate and solidly enduring architectural models. Therefore, there are three inescapable concepts on which the steps to build a hospital must be planned.
They are as follows:
1. Environment and population analysis
Analyze the environment, identify the urban environment and the road infrastructure that surround it, as well as population studies to know the rates of aging, mortality, fertility, etc. All this translates into knowing the average user who will visit the hospital
2. Hospital model
After this analysis, it is time to generate a hospital plan or model about the hospital, considering the distribution and number of beds, clinical areas, consultations, emergencies, etc.
3. Logistic and architectural design
Once we have the model, the next step is to design each unit, block, area…
The revolution in hospital design
Within everything that encompasses and affects hospital design, and thinking about a future that is closer than ever, we can speak of a series of principles or values that will mark the success of the hospital revolution that is to come.
Starting with universal and global accessibility, for any type of user; use recyclable materials, implement flexible models for changing circumstances / paradigms, a constant search for energy self-sufficiency, design based on scientific evidence, the mixture of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence through ICT, the absolute integration of hospital technology current and future, the commitment to a more “humane” hospital for both the patient and the staff, or the application of biophilic design in healthcare spaces.
© Copyright. Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
Practical examples in hospital design
What the hospitals built in recent years express is that the days of sterile and excessively shared spaces, aesthetically ugly, with centers belonging to the Soviet bloc in the Cold War, are already coming to an end.
Hard research, constant reassessment, and more informed decision-making than ever are the ropes that healthcare designers work with.
This approach is seen in places like Maggie’s Centers, those small buildings located in the vicinity of different hospitals created to support people fighting cancer. They are renowned for their creative looks and for being created by world-famous architects such as Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry and Norman Foster.
© Copyright. Maggie’s Centre. Leeds
© Copyright. Maggie’s Centre. Sutton
Another good sample is the Kaiser Permanente Radiation Oncology Center in Anaheim, California, where the Yazdani study first connected the facility to the landscape. Yazdani broke the historical trend of placing radiation treatment centers underground and ended up bringing radiation oncology services above ground and into the light, installing Zen gardens and living walls that can be seen from treatment rooms.
On a more practical level, and within the interior design and hospital services itself, the Vall d’Hebron Hospital stands out for two recent initiatives. One is the “Superbox” project, that is, the creation of boxes with illustrations to cover the serum and chemotherapy bags for children. And also the application of a virtual reality program that relaxes children with cancer who must undergo radiotherapy, so that they can be calmer during the sessions and thus avoid the administration of sedatives.