Magazine article Health Facilities Management

All Access: Planning Public Spaces for Health Care Facilities

Magazine article Health Facilities Management

All Access: Planning Public Spaces for Health Care Facilities

Article excerpt

During the Industrial Age when it was learned that germs cause illness and that pollution can trigger disease in immune-stressed patients, public spaces for healing were replaced with private spaces. The sick were separated from the healthy and buildings became more compartmentalized.

Today, the assumption that patients should be separated and isolated is evaluated in the interests of safety and best practices. And there is also much more emphasis on the patient as a customer with rights and desires for self-direction, family inclusiveness and participation in caregiving and healing.

Clearly, health care's consumer-driven agenda has architectural implications, not the least of which centers on the total experience. Health care public spaces have a role in forming that experience.

Memorable and positive

Health care public spaces have been examined at least since 2007, when a group of health care design professionals thought it worthy of exploration. In the ensuing years, health care architects have come to view public space as a vital player in the overall health care experience.

Health care public space can create a memorable and positive experience by providing orientation, instilling pride, building confidence and helping the healing process.

A public space is defined as one that provides access to all. It's a place where people can congregate and engage in multiple activities, a place of movement and flow, and a place of cultural collectiveness. Favorite public spaces might be described as grand or intimate, quiet or loud, public or private, but in all cases they are memorable and enhance the human experience.

So, how might general public space relate to health care public space? What is similar and what is different? Both general public space and health care public space share the same characteristics, but health care public spaces also have their own special patterns.

Typologies. The unique functions of health care public spaces can be categorized over the following formal typologies:

* Collector spaces. These are accepting and orienting spaces with high populations. They are active and have increased noise levels.

* Introspective spaces. These are accepting but calming spaces. They also feature high populations, but are personal, quieter and highly passive.

* Purpose spaces. These are spaces with specific functions. They are service-based and feature various user volumes. Noise levels are usually moderate in these dynamic spaces.

* Mover spaces. These spaces feature constant movement as well as ebb and flow of user volumes. These highly dynamic spaces are characterized by moderate noise levels.

* Switchboard spaces. These are spaces of orientation and wayfinding with consistently high populations. These dynamic spaces feature moderate noise levels and organizational clarity.

Attributes. Once the typology is defined, the following unique identity attributes of health care must be considered for each space:

* Environmental factors. These include the healing powers of natural light and air quality.

* User groups. These include diverse user groups and health care-focused user groups.

* Public and private relationships. There are public and private boundaries that must be respected and clearly defined for best care practices.

* Context of body health. People needing care for a diversity of ailments are the norm in these spaces.

* Passage of time. Time is often perceived differently in the health care environment by patient, family and staff.

* Emotional disposition. Patients in a health care setting can feel uncertainty and vulnerability, and experience emotional highs and lows.

A number of conclusions can be drawn from these elements. First is a heightened awareness and appreciation of the relevance of health care public space in the healing process. …

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