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Healthcare Design: 5 Take Aways from Award Winners

Key Points
  • The awards highlight the best in healthcare building design, including function and sustainability.
  • Consider the surrounding community and environment when determining how to design the space.
  • Designs that include daylight and nature views can help relieve stress for patients and caregivers.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Academy of Architecture for Health (AAH) awards the best facilities in healthcare building design every year. In addition to satisfying the functional and sustainability requirements of a hospital, the following award-winning facilities solve other social issues.

1. Include the community. The Meridian Center for Health provides low- to no-cost health services for underserved adults and children. The facility includes community spaces available for use by neighborhood organizations after hours. Outdoor patios double as consult spaces and the driveway was widened to provide space for farmers markets. The project preserved and enhanced a public park on the southeast corner of the site, which contains mature trees, a pond and an art walk.

2. Design for the caregiver. Although the Mercy Virtual Care Center houses no patients (it connects to them through technology), it still recognizes the humanity of the healthcare worker. Integrated balconies provide staff with direct access to nature (landscape includes mature trees and a small lake) to help them feel refreshed. The floor-to-ceiling glass allows plenty of natural light into the building. Rectangular 30,000-square-foot floor plates are designed to optimize flexibility and accommodate changing technologies of the future.

3. Create a sense of calm. The University of California-San Diego’s Jacobs Medical Center is designed as three hospitals in one, focusing on birthing, cancer care and specialty surgery. The spa-like atmosphere produces tranquility, with lighting design playing a key role. A meditation room also helps reduce stress. Integrated into the exterior are several elevated gardens and terraces for bringing nature up to the patient level. Collaboration was key to designing the space, with 65 user groups and 80 hospital departments involved.

4. Improve patient experience and outcome. This requires working closely with key stakeholders as Advocate Health Care Heart Institute’s project team did to design the cardiac catheterization suite at an Illinois hospital. The suite includes a transradial recovery lounge, safety-conscious labs and a first-of-its-kind prep/recovery bay enabling a less stressful recuperation personalized for each patient.

5. Provide easy wayfinding. Bayshore Dental is a converted abandoned building and incorporates a continuous ceiling plane to lead patients from reception to the individual exam rooms, each marked by green vertical panels and light strips. Windows extending to the floor also provide a more pleasant experience for  patients. The Harvey Pediatric Clinic has sixteen exam rooms organized along a simple, clear circulation path defined by several skylights.

For your next healthcare project, consider these strategies and design elements to make your project a success.

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