Contract - Designing for Health: Creating familiar spaces through material selection

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Designing for Health: Creating familiar spaces through material selection

25 November, 2013

-By Tamara Cavin, IIDA, NCIDQ, and Emily McVeigh, IIDA, ASID, NCIDQ, LEED AP BD+C


Nature should inspire architecture.  People work more comfortably and recuperate more successfully in buildings that echo the environment in which the human species evolved. (1) As Designers, we have the ability to take materials found in nature and use them in a way that blends in with the environment and feels natural – putting patients, visitors and staff at ease.

Reinforcing the importance of this is the fact that Americans are spending an increasing amount of time in healthcare settings.  Nationwide, we are spending an average of 23 minutes waiting to see our doctors. (2) Some patients come from remote locations and arrive anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour early before their scheduled appointment. (2) Others spend days at a time visiting hospitals as the support system for patients requiring extensive care.  Amenities have become the norm for hospitals offering convenience to patients, their families and staff.

With this in mind, it is no wonder that the design of healthcare establishments is being influenced by the comforts of home and our natural environment. This design shift provides opportunities to incorporate design elements and products that cross over from the commercial world.  With increasing sustainability awareness, they also have the ability to contribute to the LEED scorecard.  But use of these materials doesn’t always come easy.  Not everyone on the team is automatically on board, and getting them to make changes can take some convincing.  

So why use more commercial materials in environments that are primarily concerned with durability, maintainability, and infection control? Use of a stone variety or wood species that is indigenous to the project’s region is an opportunity to connect to the culture of the community frequenting the facility.  For example, in a regionally-inspired project, the use of recycled wood harvested from local barns in the mountains of West Virginia was proposed.  The concept celebrated the hard work ethic of the people of the territory.

Along with cultural connections, materials can also become wayfinding elements guiding patients and staff to their desired destination while familiarizing them with their surroundings.  Glass is one material that works well in wayfinding applications.  For example, colored glass panels applied to elevator banks can act as an orientation device. Glass with integral graphics and patterns can replace artwork.  With varied opacity levels providing degrees of privacy, a thin profile and ability to transmit light, glass can be a less oppressive alternative to simple drywall.  Soft materials, such as carpet and sound absorbing ceiling tiles, can bring comfort under foot, help to buffer falls, and aid in absorbing sound from television monitors and cell phone conversations that have become a constant in our day lives.

Patient experience is a key incentive to create a soothing environment supported by research.  A thoughtful composition with views to nature can become a form of positive distraction, calming the senses by reducing fear, pain, and anxiety. According to distraction theory, the more captivating an environmental distraction, the greater the pain reduction. (2) The use of clear glass at waiting zones, corridors and patient rooms provides access to natural light, which can increase levels of patient and staff contentment and decrease feelings of depression. (3) Other research indicates that renovation of waiting areas, improved general layouts, upgraded floor coverings, and informational displays can result in improved mood, an altered physiological state and greater satisfaction among waiting patients and working staff. (4)

All that being said, a product’s performance and maintenance need to be assessed before incorporating it into any project. Arming yourself with this information can also assist in getting the project team on board.  Glass can be cleaned and maintained with virtually any cleaning agent.  Technology in carpet fiber has made carpet tile more resistant to stains (betadyne) and cleanable (with bleach).   Natural stone and wood are materials that require low maintenance and virtually no replacement over the life of the project — a very sustainable approach.

To further encourage health in the built environment, one should select and specify products and materials while thinking about the impact they have on the users of the facilities we are designing. (5) There should be a balance in selecting sustainably sourced materials and products that enhance the project, while also minimizing the impact caused by manufacturing and transportation, and maintaining indoor air quality.  Local materials and products with high recycled content should be selected when possible.  In addition to improving patient experience, these strategies may assist the project in achieving LEED certification.

What goes into the materials we specify should also be evaluated. In response to concerns about potentially harmful substances used in building products, Perkins+Will created the Precautionary List. It is a free online resource available publicly, and it contains a list of substances that have proven to be harmful, their potential effects, products that could contain these chemicals, and alternative solutions.  At Perkins+Will, it is our belief that products that may be hazardous to humans, animals and the environment should not be used in our projects. We seek to inform our clients of available alternatives so as to permit them to make informed decisions, to protect our health and the health of future generations. (6)

Besides product durability, performance, and maintenance, another constraint that can derail any project goal is the budget. Many healthcare projects are run by a committee.  Building consensus from the team that could include board members, physicians, nurses, a facilities group, as well as the maintenance staff, can be a challenge. Some strategies might be getting an advocate on the committee to assist the design team in organizing the goals of the project while considering the agenda of everyone involved in the project.  Determining the life cycle cost of any product can help the committee in their evaluation of the selection.  Prioritize materials, providing the best solution to the most prolific challenge the facility might be facing.  Highlight the one finish that will transform the environment, or introduce new, or different finishes in less critical areas (public spaces) while maintaining standard materials in critical zones (treatment spaces) as a way to reach the goals of all involved. 

EcoImpact’s Penny Bonda states, “One element of interior spaces that is more intangible than others is their ability to inspire and invigorate its occupants—spaces that the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Amory Lovins says create ‘delight when entered, pleasure when occupied, and regret when departed.’ And while such things as effective lighting and thermal comfort certainly contribute to this feeling, designers are also finding spaces that provide some kind of a connection to the natural environment receive the highest marks from the people who inhabit them. There are, on the market today, a plethora of nature-inspired floor coverings, wall coverings, window treatments, surface materials, and fabrics - a trend destined to continue for years to come as people innately seek a connection with the natural world.” (7)


FOOTNOTES:
(1) “Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science, and Practice of Bringing Buildings To Life” by Stephan R. Kellert, Judith Heerwagen, Martin Mador, 2008.

(2)  The Consumer, The Doctor Will See You ... Eventually, By LESLEY ALDERMANPublished: August 1, 2011

(3)  McCaul, K.D. and Malott, J.M. (1984). Distraction and coping with pain. Psychological Bulletin, 95(3), 516-533.

(4) Berg, 2001; Blomkvist et al., 2005; Philibin & Gray, 2002

(5) Perkins+Will Transparency website, http://www.transparency.perkinswill.com

(6) Perkins+Will Transparency website, http://www.transparency.perkinswill.com

(7) Penny Bonda, Partner, FASID, LEED Fellow, [eco]impact  http://www.ecoimpactsite.com

BIOS:
Tamara Cavin, IIDA, NCIDQ
Tammy Cavin is a senior interior designer with Perkins+Will, an international architectural and interior design firm. With over 20 years of corporate and government project experience, she offers a clarity of planning, diverse material knowledge, and application to healthcare projects she consults on in the D.C. practice. Her focus on a comforting patient experience is always the priority while offering solutions that will satisfy all drivers of the project team. She is a leader of the Resource and Learning Committee and participant of the Design Discourse initiative in the DC office. She can be reached at tamara.cavin@perkinswill.com.

Emily McVeigh, IIDA, ASID, NCIDQ, LEED AP BD+C
Emily McVeigh, an associate and interior project designer in Perkins+Will’s Washington, D.C., office with 11 years of experience, specializes in commercial interiors, work place design and management, and government facilities. Emily also has six years of LEED consulting experience including over five LEED-CI Platinum and Gold certifications. She has been part of the design team on numerous commercial interiors projects, involved in all project phases from programming, space planning, design, construction documentation, and construction administration. She works closely with the project team consisting of clients, consultants, vendors, and contractors to ensure quality services and client satisfaction. She can be reached at Emily.mcveigh@perkinswill.com.



Designing for Health: Creating familiar spaces through material selection

25 November, 2013


Nature should inspire architecture.  People work more comfortably and recuperate more successfully in buildings that echo the environment in which the human species evolved. (1) As Designers, we have the ability to take materials found in nature and use them in a way that blends in with the environment and feels natural – putting patients, visitors and staff at ease.

Reinforcing the importance of this is the fact that Americans are spending an increasing amount of time in healthcare settings.  Nationwide, we are spending an average of 23 minutes waiting to see our doctors. (2) Some patients come from remote locations and arrive anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour early before their scheduled appointment. (2) Others spend days at a time visiting hospitals as the support system for patients requiring extensive care.  Amenities have become the norm for hospitals offering convenience to patients, their families and staff.

With this in mind, it is no wonder that the design of healthcare establishments is being influenced by the comforts of home and our natural environment. This design shift provides opportunities to incorporate design elements and products that cross over from the commercial world.  With increasing sustainability awareness, they also have the ability to contribute to the LEED scorecard.  But use of these materials doesn’t always come easy.  Not everyone on the team is automatically on board, and getting them to make changes can take some convincing.  

So why use more commercial materials in environments that are primarily concerned with durability, maintainability, and infection control? Use of a stone variety or wood species that is indigenous to the project’s region is an opportunity to connect to the culture of the community frequenting the facility.  For example, in a regionally-inspired project, the use of recycled wood harvested from local barns in the mountains of West Virginia was proposed.  The concept celebrated the hard work ethic of the people of the territory.

Along with cultural connections, materials can also become wayfinding elements guiding patients and staff to their desired destination while familiarizing them with their surroundings.  Glass is one material that works well in wayfinding applications.  For example, colored glass panels applied to elevator banks can act as an orientation device. Glass with integral graphics and patterns can replace artwork.  With varied opacity levels providing degrees of privacy, a thin profile and ability to transmit light, glass can be a less oppressive alternative to simple drywall.  Soft materials, such as carpet and sound absorbing ceiling tiles, can bring comfort under foot, help to buffer falls, and aid in absorbing sound from television monitors and cell phone conversations that have become a constant in our day lives.

Patient experience is a key incentive to create a soothing environment supported by research.  A thoughtful composition with views to nature can become a form of positive distraction, calming the senses by reducing fear, pain, and anxiety. According to distraction theory, the more captivating an environmental distraction, the greater the pain reduction. (2) The use of clear glass at waiting zones, corridors and patient rooms provides access to natural light, which can increase levels of patient and staff contentment and decrease feelings of depression. (3) Other research indicates that renovation of waiting areas, improved general layouts, upgraded floor coverings, and informational displays can result in improved mood, an altered physiological state and greater satisfaction among waiting patients and working staff. (4)

All that being said, a product’s performance and maintenance need to be assessed before incorporating it into any project. Arming yourself with this information can also assist in getting the project team on board.  Glass can be cleaned and maintained with virtually any cleaning agent.  Technology in carpet fiber has made carpet tile more resistant to stains (betadyne) and cleanable (with bleach).   Natural stone and wood are materials that require low maintenance and virtually no replacement over the life of the project — a very sustainable approach.

To further encourage health in the built environment, one should select and specify products and materials while thinking about the impact they have on the users of the facilities we are designing. (5) There should be a balance in selecting sustainably sourced materials and products that enhance the project, while also minimizing the impact caused by manufacturing and transportation, and maintaining indoor air quality.  Local materials and products with high recycled content should be selected when possible.  In addition to improving patient experience, these strategies may assist the project in achieving LEED certification.

What goes into the materials we specify should also be evaluated. In response to concerns about potentially harmful substances used in building products, Perkins+Will created the Precautionary List. It is a free online resource available publicly, and it contains a list of substances that have proven to be harmful, their potential effects, products that could contain these chemicals, and alternative solutions.  At Perkins+Will, it is our belief that products that may be hazardous to humans, animals and the environment should not be used in our projects. We seek to inform our clients of available alternatives so as to permit them to make informed decisions, to protect our health and the health of future generations. (6)

Besides product durability, performance, and maintenance, another constraint that can derail any project goal is the budget. Many healthcare projects are run by a committee.  Building consensus from the team that could include board members, physicians, nurses, a facilities group, as well as the maintenance staff, can be a challenge. Some strategies might be getting an advocate on the committee to assist the design team in organizing the goals of the project while considering the agenda of everyone involved in the project.  Determining the life cycle cost of any product can help the committee in their evaluation of the selection.  Prioritize materials, providing the best solution to the most prolific challenge the facility might be facing.  Highlight the one finish that will transform the environment, or introduce new, or different finishes in less critical areas (public spaces) while maintaining standard materials in critical zones (treatment spaces) as a way to reach the goals of all involved. 

EcoImpact’s Penny Bonda states, “One element of interior spaces that is more intangible than others is their ability to inspire and invigorate its occupants—spaces that the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Amory Lovins says create ‘delight when entered, pleasure when occupied, and regret when departed.’ And while such things as effective lighting and thermal comfort certainly contribute to this feeling, designers are also finding spaces that provide some kind of a connection to the natural environment receive the highest marks from the people who inhabit them. There are, on the market today, a plethora of nature-inspired floor coverings, wall coverings, window treatments, surface materials, and fabrics - a trend destined to continue for years to come as people innately seek a connection with the natural world.” (7)


FOOTNOTES:
(1) “Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science, and Practice of Bringing Buildings To Life” by Stephan R. Kellert, Judith Heerwagen, Martin Mador, 2008.

(2)  The Consumer, The Doctor Will See You ... Eventually, By LESLEY ALDERMANPublished: August 1, 2011

(3)  McCaul, K.D. and Malott, J.M. (1984). Distraction and coping with pain. Psychological Bulletin, 95(3), 516-533.

(4) Berg, 2001; Blomkvist et al., 2005; Philibin & Gray, 2002

(5) Perkins+Will Transparency website, http://www.transparency.perkinswill.com

(6) Perkins+Will Transparency website, http://www.transparency.perkinswill.com

(7) Penny Bonda, Partner, FASID, LEED Fellow, [eco]impact  http://www.ecoimpactsite.com

BIOS:
Tamara Cavin, IIDA, NCIDQ
Tammy Cavin is a senior interior designer with Perkins+Will, an international architectural and interior design firm. With over 20 years of corporate and government project experience, she offers a clarity of planning, diverse material knowledge, and application to healthcare projects she consults on in the D.C. practice. Her focus on a comforting patient experience is always the priority while offering solutions that will satisfy all drivers of the project team. She is a leader of the Resource and Learning Committee and participant of the Design Discourse initiative in the DC office. She can be reached at tamara.cavin@perkinswill.com.

Emily McVeigh, IIDA, ASID, NCIDQ, LEED AP BD+C
Emily McVeigh, an associate and interior project designer in Perkins+Will’s Washington, D.C., office with 11 years of experience, specializes in commercial interiors, work place design and management, and government facilities. Emily also has six years of LEED consulting experience including over five LEED-CI Platinum and Gold certifications. She has been part of the design team on numerous commercial interiors projects, involved in all project phases from programming, space planning, design, construction documentation, and construction administration. She works closely with the project team consisting of clients, consultants, vendors, and contractors to ensure quality services and client satisfaction. She can be reached at Emily.mcveigh@perkinswill.com.
 


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