In our last blog we asked, “Can wellness design improve healing?” The conclusion was yes, indeed it can, and we discussed a few points that promote a more healing environment. Now I’d like to further discuss some of the technical and scientific aspects that support achieving a higher quality of life through wellness design.
Light, in particular natural daylight; noise control or acoustics; and air quality all contribute to a higher quality of patient care, staff satisfaction and the wellness experience.
Natural light, or access to daylight, is important both to the patients and the staff. For patients, it can reduce pain, depression, and even reduce the length of their stay. For staff, it can contribute to a higher satisfaction with the work environment and potentially fewer mistakes.
Sufficient daylight is accessible through orienting the building optimally and being sensitive to the sun path and direction of exposure. Morning light is extremely important for patients, providing a reduction in stress and a higher recovery rate. Creating more natural light in the rooms can be done through larger windows and “light scoops” that capture light and bring it into a space.
When we can’t achieve natural light, artificial light may be substituted. In many instances, the technology is there to provide the full spectrum, or what we call daylight equivalents, through artificial means. It has also been proven that a higher quality of light improves the working condition and allows staff to be more precise, decreasing potential errors in their work.
An abundance of natural light:
- – Reduces pain
- – Brings patients into their normal circadian rhythm
- – Improves sleep quality
- – Reduces depression
- – Improves overall mood
- – Reduces the amount of time spent in the wellness facility
Noise Reduction and/or Acoustics
It’s important to manage the transference of a sound in a medical or wellness environment, because noisy environments can have a negative impact, producing physiological and psychological stress. Even for staff, a noisy environment can create a less effective workplace. It also can be very distracting, thereby affecting the quality of care delivered to the patient.
Patient’s sleep can be interrupted as a result of not managing the noise within the environment. Sensitive information could create an uncomfortable environment for the patient, thereby intensifying their stress, if they don’t have privacy and if the sound is not abated.
We currently have the technology through sound absorption materials and means of bringing acoustics separation between rooms to block sound transmission. It’s a little bit more expensive, but we can create these all important, more sound abated areas.
Air quality is more of an problem in other areas of the world, where the extremely poor air quality is now becoming a real health issue. As part of a building design, we can use hybrid mechanical systems that have scrubbers or filters. These machines take the outside air and purify or clean it as it is being brought into the building. We re-circulate that air, and can create more frequent air exchanges on a higher volume, which also increases the air quality and one’s health.
In a spa in Guangzhou, China, we created a salt inhalation room which actually opens up passages and encourages breathing for patients with bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory conditions. It is a perfect response to the poor air quality in the unfortunate environment.
So using scrubbers, hybrid mechanical systems and/or salt inhalation rooms, is a way of taking a proactive stance regarding air quality.
Carefully designed physical settings play an important role in wellness. All three of these measures, incorporated within the design of a wellness or medical environment, will result in a higher quality of life for all – patients, doctors and staff.