Updated: May 17, 2022
In healthcare environments, there are unique design elements and innovative trends that are considered to enhance the experience of those within the facilities. Making patients and staff feel comfortable throughout their stay is the top priority of healthcare owners, especially when people spend many hours a day inside.
A trendy and attractive element that can be easily implemented into any space is connection to nature. Whether it’s indoor/ outdoor plants, window views, natural light, water features, earthy tones, textures, or even artwork, these elements can emulate the outdoors while inside the facility.
Beyond the aesthetics of implementing nature, there are many health benefits that patients and healthcare workers can gain through biophilic types of design. Some benefits include reduced stress, reduced depression, reduced illness, and more focus, energy, and overall happiness.
3 ways to include Biophilic design in healthcare projects:
Using live plants in these spaces can aid with thermal & humidity regulation: they absorb heat, humidity, and moisture, making them ideally effective in healthcare facilities where fresh, clean air is an important element. Featuring indoor plants that can thrive indoors may be ideal to add into the spaces, both individual and public rooms.
Natural Light: Large window spaces in the facility where large amounts of natural light brighten a space naturally
Circadian Lighting: Lighting style that regulates our circadian rhythm by mimicking the natural light of the outdoors into indoor lights (ex. cooler blue tones for morning, neutral white for daytime, warm yellow/ orange for evening)
Natural Materials & Elements: Using plants and natural colors, tones, and materials throughout the facility (greens, wood, earthy tones, etc.)
Lobby or atrium design for common areas may include large, open views to the outdoor surrounding areas, natural light from large windows, and/ or live plant vegetation and other natural materials and tones. In more private spaces like in patient rooms and offices, circadian lighting can be implemented as well as nature-like artwork, faux-windows, and natural tones.
The Importance of Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC) in Healthcare
Another positive asset to biophilic design is that is promotes the positive effects of clean airflow and ventilation. The importance of clean air circulation and HVAC is high in a healthcare setting. Proper ventilation in a healthcare facility or hospital reduces chances of spreading infectious diseases, promotes less stress on patients and workers, and makes the space more comfortable, even for long periods of time.
When planning for an HVAC plant in a healthcare facility, different zones of hospitals may receive varying levels of maintenance and priority. In ICU units for example, is it critical for the engineers to make the components of the HVAC plant easily accessible for those working in the facility. Components such as supply air, return air, exhaust air, and outdoor air must be clearly marked and labeled so the facility's team knows when maintenance is necessary.
Electrical Biophilic Elements
When it comes to electrical systems within healthcare facilities, the installation process differs from a normal electrical installation. There must be an emergency electrical system (UPS or IT power systems) that will guarantee the quality of the power supply for the entire facility in case the primary system is down for any reason.
Circadian lighting is beneficial to add into design plans if there aren’t exterior walls that allow natural light to flow in. Using luminous square lights in interior patient rooms or any areas where natural light cannot be reached adds style, natural brightness, and unique character to a healthcare environment in the forms of windows, skylights, arrays, clerestories, or any custom arrangement.
*Lightglass is one product that offers unique, high-quality light fixtures that create natural, circadian lighting element to these spaces in different shapes and sizes to enhance the comfort of a healthcare space, where people spend many hours without leaving the facility.
Benefits of Circadian Lighting
Implementing circadian lighting enhances patient and staff experiences in healthcare facilities. These lighting systems follow the natural sleep and wake cycles of the human body and can positively impact health, productivity, alertness, and more positive feelings for humans.
When it comes to implementing these natural light lights into designs, utilizing them may affect the electrical engineering components of the spaces, depending on whether these lights are used on the walls or the ceiling, and how many. These units typically only require 3-4 inches of depth for installation into walls and ceilings, and they are also made with sustainable and energy-efficient materials that will last for years, making them an adaptable addition to any biophilic healthcare environment.
The left photo depicts morning light, the middle is afternoon light, and the right side depicts evening light. (photo source: https://www.ecmag.com/section/lighting/beyond-ceiling-healthy-lighting-hospitals)
Circadian lighting can be a beneficial addition that improves the performance of working staff as well as the well-being of patients being treated within the facility. This element can aid in a faster recovery time as well as balancing our human circadian rhythm that resets the body’s internal clock every 24 hours. Lighting can help us achieve this by exposing us to various wavelengths of natural light depending on the time of day it is.
The electrical engineering necessary for implementing these lights includes optimizing a light pattern for tuning the LED lights to the circadian cycle. Used to control light intensity, the spectral power density (SPD) allows engineers to measure the wavelengths of lights to the circadian rhythm. Engineers may also work with a lighting designer to create a smart sensor device to program the outdoor lighting that adjusts its synced LED lights to the current temperature.
If WELL Certification is a goal of the healthcare facility, there are WELL standards for this specific type of lighting including appropriate light exposure, required lighting that achieves a minimum of 120 EML, and non-visual impacts of light. Ensuring the facility follows this WELL standard is important so that the light exposure properly enhances the circadian rhythm of those within the facility/ around the lights.
Contact Tec for More Information
A few photos of Tec Inc projects including Biophilic Design:
Tec Inc's engineers have experience incorporating these unique elements in several facilities such as libraries and commercial spaces that can be implemented into healthcare projects.
If you're looking to implement biophilic design elements discussed in this blog, contact a Tec engineer for any additional information or questions you have. Biophilic design is the future of our indoor environments, and the healthcare market is a great option that can highly benefit from this style.