Consulting and design firm HDR has an informative series of three videos tackling the basics of evidence based design in a lively and accessible way with a focus on specific applications of ideas in three different hospitals. The videos can’t be embedded in this blog, but click through to their website and have a peek. Their projects strive to give patients control through bedside remotes managing temperate and window-shades, minimize disruption in rooms by allowing staff to re-stock supplies from the outside hallway via a storage closet with doors to both the hallway and the room, as well reduce noise levels through design and simple interventions like requiring staff to keep their cell phones on vibrate. All in all it’s less than ten minutes of footage and a really nice introduction to practical applications of evidence based design from a more strategic planning perspective.
Michael Mehaffy and Nikos Salingaros wrote a post for Metropolis Magazine’s blog back in November, detailing the ideas of Biophilia. It’s a great little essay, definitely worth a read. Coined in 1984 by Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, the term literally means “love of life or living systems.” It suggests that human beings are hardwired to be healthier and heal faster when we somehow engage with the natural world. This is an iconic concept raised frequently in discussions of healthcare design, but generally not using this formal named concept of Biophilia. From the Metropolis blog:
In 1984, the environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich made a startling discovery. In studying hospital patients recovering from surgery, he found that one factor alone accounted for significant differences in post-operative complications, recovery times, and need for painkillers. It was the view from their windows!
Half the patients had views out to beautiful nature scenes. The other half saw a blank wall. This was an astonishing result — the mere quality of aesthetic experience had a measurable impact on the patients’ health and wellbeing. Moreover — and this certainly caught the attention of hard-nosed economists — because the patients stayed less time, used fewer drugs, and had fewer complications, their stay in the hospital actually cost less.
What mechanism could explain such an effect? One main proponent of biophilia, the noted biologist Edward O. Wilson, hypothesizes that we human beings have spent most of our evolutionary history in natural environments, and we have evolved to find good (i.e. healthy) environments pleasurable. Aesthetics, in this view that is increasingly accepted by scientists, is not some arbitrary experience, but our sophisticated biological ability to detect what is likely to be good for us.
Take this all with a certain dose of skepticism. According to the American Institute of Architect’s subpage on biophilia:
Despite fairly clear evidence of medical benefits from biophilic measures, very little research has been conducted to verify these outcomes. Ulrich told participants of Bringing Buildings to Life that there are still only about 30 pertinent studies on the relationship between views of nature and healing—despite the potential billions of dollars in healthcare cost savings that such features could achieve.
Tuesday, November 8th you can listen live to the RSA and Maggie’s Centers’ lecture on Architecture, Art and Wellbeing online for free right here. It’ll be at 6pm British time, or 1pm for East Coasters.
“The concept of ‘healing architecture’ has been developing over the last two decades and a large amount of research has been carried out into the impact of architectural design on the success of healthcare environments. Evidence that architects can significantly alter a patients’ experience and quality of life has led to a change in attitude and approach to designing spaces such as the Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres.
Architect Piers Gough, art critic Richard Cork and consultant Dr Sam Guglani discuss Maggie’s pioneering approach to cancer care, and how this collaborative approach can be replicated and used to influence policy to develop better environments for people in healthcare.”
on may 18th, the new york times published one of it’s first stories looking specificity at trends driven by research in the field of medical design, “health outcomes driving new hospital design.” author carol ann campbell takes a serious look at the importance of single-patient rooms, and mentions a mounting interest in evidence based design that suggests empirically that hospital design is directly related to the healing process. the above illustration of a single patient room in michigan accompanies the article, and i absolutely love the daybed.
last week’s piece is a slightly more research-oriented rehash of a similar story ran in 2004 called “where the healing touch starts with hospital design” which started with a basic hypothesis that the environment at a hospital effects the patient’s treatment (yes) and then lunges into a description of rikshospitalet hospital in norway, never to return to theory. back in 2000, if a hospital was utilizing design to make patients more comfortable it was grouped under the headline of “hospitals are discovering their inner spa” with the implication that good medical design was something new-agey or absurdly luxurious. i’m curious about what the times’ next hospital-design headline might be and if this shift from treating it as an extraneous element of a machine driven hospital, or a legitimate medical concern with very real effects on patients.