Biophilia in Healthcare Settings

Elly Deakin Biophilic design, Healthcare, Healthy spaces

Clinical environments can be unsettling for many, however research has demonstrated that these negative experiences can be relieved when we engage with nature.

Hospital wards, waiting rooms and surgeries are all healthcare spaces where Biophilic design can be incorporated to provide physical and psychological benefits to ALL users – staff, patients and visitors. Overall, Biophilic spaces can reduce stress and anxiety levels, making their working and resting environment more welcoming and comfortable to be in. By improving staff well-being, absenteeism as well as medical errors made to patients can be reduced.

How can we incorporate Biophilia into our healthcare settings? You can read more about these design principles at www.humanspaces.com

  1. Improve air quality to create a healthier environment – incorporating plants and living walls enables air variations and balances up moisture indifferences, which are both beneficial for health and well-being.
  2. Optimise natural light to create a more energising space. This can be achieved by installing skylights or/and adding reflective surfaces where possible to bounce natural light through the interior.
  3. Incorporate indirect references of nature – photography, paintings, natural patterns and textures can stimulate our senses and help to strengthen a connection with nature, which can reduce heart rate and stress levels.
  4. Reduce excessive noise – natural materials and plants are good sound absorbers, which can help to create a softer environment.
  5. Enhance views onto nature by placing seating, desks and hospital beds close to a window. Pleasant views have the ability to reduce stress levels, which improve recovery rates for patients as well as job satisfaction for staff members. During a nine year experiment, Dr Ulrich (Professor of Architecture at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden) looked at the effects on patients recovering from Gall bladder surgery when they experienced views onto nature.  These views compared with views onto a brick wall were shown to be more beneficial for patients as it helped to reduce stress levels and boost their well-being – leading to a shorter recovery time.
  6. Create or improve access to outdoor spaces (healing gardens) to give patients a restorative space where they can experience direct contact with nature. In Japan, people practice “Shirin Yoku” (or forest bathing) to improve their physical and mental health. They say that breathing in phytoncides, which are produced by plants and trees, can stabalise hormonal secretion and nervous functions.

(Above) Crown Sky Gardens by Mikyoung Kim Design

Keep an eye out for our next blog, where we look at some inspiring healthcare case studies, which incorporate many of the principles that I mention above…