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The Holistic Approach – Better For Healthcare

Naomi Cole, segment executive at Tarkett, examines changes in healthcare design:

IN the days of Florence Nightingale, hospitals were designed to create an indoor environment close to that found outside by using natural ventilation, radiant heating and plenty of natural light, especially sunlight. Many tuberculosis clinics even included outdoor day-beds to maximise patient recovery. Through the Victorian era, public health was the guiding principle in building design.

As healthcare standards improved with the discovery of penicillin and greater understanding of how diseases spread, building design began to focus on comfort rather than health. By mid 20th century, new buildings were typically being made airtight and fitted with convective heating and mechanical ventilation.

Hospital wards were laid out to maximise the number of beds that could be overseen by the fewest staff, while the benefits of fresh air and sunlight gave way to advances in medication and technology. This often resulted in impersonal, clinical environments that, although physically comfortable, were not necessarily ideal for patients or staff.

It is now widely acknowledged that we respond to our environment as a whole and that pleasant, stimulating surroundings can positively aid recovery. It doesn’t matter whether that environment is calm, invigorating or fun, as long as it improves our emotional state and well-being.

Current trends in hospital design are towards a more relaxed, homely feel more akin to the hospitality industry than healthcare. For example, single ensuite rooms are increasing. A private room offers more dignity and privacy to patients and visitors, and can help reduce medication errors. Access to natural daylight and scenic views is also shown to improve patient outcomes, and more new build hospitals are designed to maximise these benefits.

Appropriate use of colour can be crucial not only in aiding patient recovery, but also improving staff morale through a more pleasant work environment. Colour can be used to link floors and walls to allow the whole space to express an idea, or assist wayfinding and navigation around typically large healthcare facilities.
Colours should reflect patient profiles, such as bright and cheerful shades in children’s wards or more muted, sophisticated shades in geriatric units. Many healthcare providers are also investing in works of art and bespoke flooring designs to brighten corridors and waiting areas, as well as providing more informal lounges and cafes to make the hospital more inviting for visitors too.

The physical appearance of a hospital greatly influences people’s perception of the quality of care delivered. As the floor is one of the largest surface areas, the choice of flooring has a significant impact on the overall design.
But hospitals are a complex type of building, encompassing many ser vices and functions from diagnostics and treatment to operating theatres and administration. They should reconcile the conflicting demands of children and the elderly, medical and support staff and visitors.

Flooring should aid the healing process by providing comfortable, quiet surfaces in a wide palette of colours. Vinyl flooring with natural-effect finishes, such as wood and stone, can give a more homely feel to a patient bedroom, while safety flooring is suitable for en-suites and wetrooms.

Given the 24/7 nature of hospital activity, acoustic flooring is particularly useful for multi- occupancy wards and corridors, while anti-static flooring is essential for operating theatres and radiography depar tments.
Above all, the flooring needs to be hard-wearing, hygienic and easy to clean and maintain, while making a positive contribution to the well-being of patients and staff.

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at