The sensitivities of healthcare architecture

by Zuerita
The sensitivities of healthcare architecture

By Alexander Hahn and Henry du Plessis
Geyser Hahn Architects (Pty) Ltd

What make a hospital building different from other buildings are the essential services that are required in the building. While the design is mostly driven by the implementation of modern technology and equipment that are required for treating patients, one has to also consider the patients.
A patient focus
In the past, hospital design was largely doctor- and staff-orientated, without forgetting about the caregivers, modern hospital design must be patient focused. From the moment the patient arrives until the discharge, one has to visualise how the process can be optimised and facilitate the most comfortable care.

If you imagine yourself, family or your child in hospital – what would you like to see in terms of facilities, privacy, access to treatments and more? What do you require to keep your dignity in such a vulnerable position?

The type of spaces we design should promote health, healing and privacy not only for the patient, but also for the family and visitors.  It is not just about the medical procedures and service, but also the psychological impact of the built environment on a human scale.  The architect’s responsibility has shifted towards sustainable and healthy infrastructure.

Design from experience
While evidence-based design (EBD) is not yet that big in South Africa, we design from experience, having seen what works best in the African context.  Local regulations are currently adopting towards this and new IUSS standards will be implemented soon.

Infection control is one of the biggest concerns we are currently facing, seeing that bacteria are becoming more and more resistant. The quality of isolation for patients is vital, even when it is not economically viable to each patient in private rooms, as this is not always viable and achievable, other avenues have to be found in terms of preventing cross infection.

Anti-bacterial materials have to be used within areas of human touch, like floor coverings, surface’s, paint, door handles, etc. in order to prevent the spreading of disease via surfaces. There are also advances in self-cleaning surfaces, which can be used in sterile areas, like theatres and spaces where patients are most vulnerable.  However this technology comes with a cost premium and is not yet always feasible.

In recent years, emphasis shifted to a more human scale hospital environment, with lots of daylight, art, textures, and points of distraction instead of long dark corridors.

New Eye Sight Clinic (Ouesso, Congo)


Middelburg Private Hospital

Green is the new white
Hospitals are very resource-intensive in terms of water, electricity, sewerage and waste since it runs for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Currently there is no local guideline for Green Star ratings for hospitals as in other countries, like Australia and others. We as South Africans are currently trailing behind but catching up quickly with recent developments.

Clients have already started realising that a higher capital investment at the start of a project yields a quick and significant return and results in much lower service and maintenance costs.

Listen, innovate and deliver
Since a healthcare facility’s brief is so technical and sensitive, it is crucial to listen very carefully to what it is the client wants. You have to understand the holistic picture and then give the best solution and advice on how to implement it, in the case of a renovation, without disrupting the existing hospital environment.

Geyser Hahn Architects
Tel: 012 665 3462
Website: www.gharchitects.co.za

Caption (MAIN PICTURE): The Club (Waterkloof Surgical, Pretoria, South Africa).

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