Healthcare Architecture: Designing for Wellness, Not Disease

Date: 24 December 2021.

Today, healthcare is one of the fastest-growing industries globally and as new medications and technology change methods of diagnosis and treatment, there is a need to rethink the model of healthcare design as well to support health and overall wellbeing rather than simply treating illnesses. Healthcare architects must strive to put the patient's experience at the core of design schemes for healthcare facilities with solutions that respect user and cultural preferences and anticipate innate human behavior solutions that promote a preventative approach rather than a responsive one with mental well-being incorporated as a key component of physical health.

Within healthcare facilities, the interdependence between the built environment and wellbeing takes on a very important role; good designs can aid the patient's healing process while bad ones can worsen health conditions, making hospitals the hotbeds of disease transmission and cross infections. Even the simplest of design choices such as the placement of a window, the colour of a wall, the texture of the floor beneath our feet, or the height of the ceiling, have a bearing on our physiological and psychological health in both positive and negative ways. Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), for instance, is a health condition that is scientifically proven to afflict people living or working in poorly designed buildings.

Theory of Biophilia

One solution that shows promise is basing designs on the theory of biophilia, which seeks to connect buildings and occupants more closely to nature. For instance, maximizing daylight, natural ventilation, view of the outdoors, and incorporating green courtyards and water bodies can create a more therapeutic built environment for recovery. Designing the building with longer sides facing the North and the South to improve daylight, providing centralized courtyard landscapes to provide passive evaporative cooling, and adding solar panels to reduce dependency on conventional forms of electricity, are some ways to optimize building energy consumption and improve efficiency. Also, designing decentralized micro-service zones that run parallel to various departments can help make regular servicing and maintenance easier and quicker. Going forward, as the understanding of health and wellbeing evolves, new construction technologies provide limitless possibilities in this sector. Building Information Modelling (BIM), for example, which can help determine the optimal geometry of buildings in response to selected parameters, can not only help create healthier built environments but also aid in pre-empting problems and shortening the time of construction to save costs, while 'temporary and transformable' architecture has enabled emergency mitigation like never before. Imbibing such innovations within healthcare architecture design holds the key to streamlining the systems for better performance - from accessibility of essential public services and improved patient care to the wellbeing of our economy.

IMK Architects is one such firm that incorporates theory of biophilia in all its designs. One of the best healthcare architects in India, the firm aims to create innovative spaces. To know more about the firm, get in touch with the team.