A hospital building plays an integral part in the healing process. Design-led innovation can improve healthcare through thoughtful architecture and well-chosen materials.
Presenting an opportunity for the fields of healthcare, construction and architecture to partner in creating better hospital buildings, the minister of health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, last year announced plans to build 43 new hospitals and 216 new clinics, as well as to renovate 816 existing hospitals within the next five years.
A case study for SA
Saint-Gobain, a company that designs and manufactures innovative building materials, systems and solutions, is looking to partner with architects and healthcare providers locally to build a case-study hospital.
Such a building would not only make it possible to measure the influence of the design on patients’ wellbeing and recovery rates, quality of care and operational costs of hospitals, but would be a tangible reference where visitors could experience the quality environment good design and materials can create.
Acoustics, light, air and temperature
Acoustics, light, air and thermal quality of buildings all affect stress and anxiety. Sound absorbing surfaces reduce noise reflected off walls, floors and ceilings, while noise from people, machines, air-conditioners, and water and drainage systems can also be reduced with the right materials and insulation products. This directly affects patients’ sleep and their privacy.
Likewise, surfaces that don’t reflect light reduce visual discomfort and stress, while thermal insulation regulates temperatures.
A pollution- and germ-free environment is also crucial. Saint-Gobain GyprocActiv’Air products, for example, remove formaldehydes and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air. Air quality is further influenced by moisture levels and airborne microbes and irritants, which can be eradicated with proper ventilation, light and temperatures.
A hospital that is easy to navigate is less stressful. Confusion can be limited by having fewer, better placed entrances and exits, while curved passages, without seemingly endless views, could bring down the scale of a hospital building and reduce stress.
Sustainability and maintenance
Probably the most obvious concern for new building projects is environmental impact through sustainability and energy efficiency. Many of Saint-Gobain’s specialised products are manufactured using recycled materials. The company’s systems require less energy during manufacture than conventional methods and fewer resources, which translate into cleaner building sites.
Saint-Gobain’s flexible construction systems also make repairs and maintenance quicker, which means less down-time.
There is money to be saved
All these building and operational efficiencies amount to money saved, whether it’s through improved patient recovery times, less readmissions, or through more sustainable and efficient architecture that requires less energy to function effectively.
One United States case study showed that preventing just two costly readmissions to critical care in a cardiology unit could pay to fit the whole unit with acoustic ceilings.
The greater benefit
The benefits of evidence-based design (EBD) have a ripple effect that affects the hospital’s ability to serve the community it’s in. The environment also affects the quality of the care doctors and nurses can provide. Happy employees take fewer sick days, are less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, and are less likely to seek employment elsewhere.
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