Building a Healthcare Facility: Using the 5 Senses to Create a Healthy Healing Space
We love to build healthcare facilities of any kind, and we especially have fun creating pediatric spaces. Building a doctor’s, dentist’s, or other healthcare office for kids and adults that they actually want to visit is a fun challenge we’re always up for.
Over the years we’ve learned a lot about what makes a great healthcare space, and we’ve noticed that it follows a theme, no matter the medical specialty or intended audience: the senses. So in this blog post we’re exploring the senses and how we use them to create spaces that facilitate healing.
Getting a healthcare office right aesthetically can make a difference between a patient who feels comfortable and one who is ready to bolt (or find another doctor!). Creating a great first impression is important to us, and there are a few areas we love to focus on to make sure we get it right. Of course, we don’t do this alone — we love to work with great architects and designers who use these strategies in their designs. A great architect, designer, and commercial construction company makes for a dream team when building the perfect people-friendly space.
When we’re creating a pediatric space, we love to make use of color. A space that is vibrant and engaging is like an invitation for kids (but we certainly don’t overlook the impact color has on adults too!). We love bold murals, a cohesive color palette on the walls, furniture, and decor, and even in the branding. While we don’t touch all of these elements ourselves as a commercial construction team, we’re certainly thinking about how they will create a great foundation for color in the finished product. Because we value the impact of color, we take great care to only work with painting subcontractors who can apply it to our “Dura Beauty” standard.
To us, the floor is a big canvas for fun, and we love to use it to our advantage when creating a space. Often in pediatrics healthcare facilities kids have the hardest time transitioning from the waiting room to the exam room, so we love to use carpet tiles to create a game, such as hopscotch. Imagine turning flooring into a game. That’s a much better way to get kids to travel in one direction, as opposed to tugging, kicking and screaming. And, carpet tiles are great because they’re so easily replaced Win, win. This creative solution fits in with one of our core values, “new Ways”, meaning that we enjoy problems because they are opportunities to invent solutions.
Natural lighting is far and away the best option to create a space that feels calm and soothing. So many studies show that fluorescent lighting is stressful to the brain due to the way it flickers, yet so many commercial spaces are full of it, including healthcare offices. We love to incorporate natural lighting as much as we possibly can by using lots of windows. And where we can’t use natural lighting we love to employ lighting that has warmer color temperatures. All of this helps a space feel homelike, warm, and cozy.
On top of that, natural light is proven to increase production (and it’s used often in green construction), so we make every effort to use it in our commercial construction projects. It’s often much easier to achieve in residential construction projects due to the smaller footprints. Choosing the number of windows a space will have is one of the first decisions we make with the design team, and from there the rest of the construction follows. So getting it right from the beginning is important.
And finally, no matter the style of lighting, we always like to employ dimming capabilities, because low lighting (with necessary spotlighting for medical professionals) creates a calm and soothing atmosphere for patients, especially kids.
Can you imagine walking into a doctor’s office and having it smell...fresh? It’s a rare thing, but what a difference it makes! Here in Portland, Maine, we have some of the most beautiful weather and freshest air around, so we love to bring that freshness indoors. Here’s how we do it.
The first way we love to create a good smelling office space is with mother nature herself. We encourage our clients to choose operable windows, or at the very least an ERV/HRV energy recovery ventilator. This special ventilator takes outside air and changes it with the inside air, and makes sure that you don’t lose your heat/AC. It’s almost like magic. This ventilator has become popular since buildings have become more and more airtight, and they help ensure good air quality in spaces that require it, such as healthcare facilities. They’re often used in clean rooms (such as surgical suites), using additional measures such as clean room finishes.
Low/Zero VOC Finishes:
We also love to use paints with zero VOC finishes and products that don’t offgas. Both of these options help keep a space healthy, and makes a big difference creating a space that promotes healing. Employing clean air finishes like these are very popular in green building construction because indoor air quality has repeatedly been proven to create a healthy space for healing.
What better way to create a space for healing and fresh air than having plants? In a healthcare office there will be plenty of natural light, so it only makes sense to include plants that purify the air while also looking beautiful. And it’s not just us saying this! NASA did a major study to examine which plants purify the air, and of which substances. If it’s good enough for NASA, it’s good enough for us.
Part of creating a space that smells fresh is creating a space that is easily cleaned. In all of our healthcare construction projects we adhere to all building code standards to ensure that spaces can be easily cleaned, while still connecting to nature with elements like plants. This cleanability includes things like not having 90 degree corners on the floor, and filtration systems to help keep the air pure.
Medical offices have lots of sounds, especially in pediatrics. Drilling in a dentist’s office, babies crying, phones going off...it can easily get loud, but it doesn’t have to be. We create a healthy sound atmosphere by using sound dampening and sound proofing construction techniques in our walls, windows, and doors. This is especially important in a pediatric facility where children can be easily scared just by the sounds they hear.
Touch is one of the primary ways that we engage with a space, and creating a healthcare or medical office that provides positive touch feedback goes a long way towards creating a space that promotes healing.
In healthcare facilities we engage the sense of touch by creating elements that are immersive and engaging. We love to use water features, which children in particular love to touch and play with.
In a pediatric office, why have just a regular doorway when you can have a special kid-sized doorway, or a door within a door? Kids love things like this that are just for them. It creates an engaging space that they love to be in and look forward to experiencing.
We love to add in elements that Inspire curiosity for anyone.Creating a fun and engaging space for adults is just as important. A well designed and carefully built space can make a person feel alive! And isn’t that what healthcare is all about?
Case Study: Wellness Center
We’re currently in the middle of creating a wellness center that employs many of these techniques, and we couldn’t be more excited. The owners of this space wanted to create an atmosphere of healing, so here’s what we did. We included elements like cathedral ceilings in the yoga room that give the sense of transcendence to the cosmos. The color palette has all muted colors that are soothing. The “living wall” (a wall of plants!) purifies the air while also connecting to nature. Working with the designer, we used elements that bring in texture and a feeling of nature such as barn board, a (faux) brick wall, and built in planters with automatic irrigation. All of these elements combine to create a space that immediately feels transformative. We’ll be done with this project soon and we can’t wait to show off pics!
Do you have a healthcare construction project in mind?
If you’re building a healthcare facility (of any kind), and want it to be crafted with a focus on healing, we’d love to partner with you. Our way of doing business starts with taking the time to get to know you and your goals, then translating that relationship into a process for building better. Many of the ideas mentioned here came from taking the time to listen, and imagine solutions. Budgets are real factors in any project, but we’ve had plenty of practice inventing ways to save on costs while still getting you the end result you dream of.