Posted by Yvonne on 18.05.2012

The way environments look influence the way we feel, the way we behave, and how often we frequent them. Research has shown that the way a healthcare environment looks and feels will not only effect these common factors, but also change the health outcomes for patients. This has radically changed the way in which hospitals and other healthcare facilities are being designed.

This means that architects, interior designers, environmental graphic designers, and wayshowing strategists all have a responsibility to create an environment that positively effects an individual during their healing process. Through attractive design, welcoming layout choices, and simplicity in navigation, we can help ease anxieties associated with the hospital environment.

A large number of changes can be made early in the process to ensure that wayfinding behaviour is simplified, thereby reducing stress, and helping to improve the experience of the hospital for all users. The earlier in the design process we are involved, the more malleable the environment, and the easier it is to implement positive changes without having to radically alter a whole floor plan or building. We keep having to say to clients that we love not having to put signage up–no signage means that the building is easy to navigate, means that the patient has less to worry about, and can help them feel at ease in the building.

A major project where this methodology applies is the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. Natural sunlight will filter through the building, some windows can be opened for fresh air, all while ensuring that the building will not overheat. This emphasis on nature extends into the architectural form and signage structure.

All disciplines, across architecture, interior design, landscaping, art, ICT, and Facility Management need to work together, as there is a strong need in a building of this size and complexity to consider how all aspects of the built environment influence user behaviour. The wayshowing forms an important part of and contributes to the integrated design solution. Regular workshops with the user groups will ensure that interdepartmental circulation routes and flows for patients, staff and visitors are developed in a holistic approach, with a consensus from all key stakeholders.

Landmarks, theming and other stimuli will guide the visitor in a intuitive way with a simple information hierarchy applied, delivered in a structured manner where this is needed.

Cross-disciplinary integration, when it occurs early and often, can result in a huge win for all users of these buildings, not least in their health outcomes. The Royal Adelaide Hospital is just one in a series of new projects that make sure all disciplines work together to get a great result, not just in terms of aesthetics or efficacy, but in terms of patient’s physical and mental wellbeing.

We are proud to be involved in this landmark project, and look forward to bringing you more updates as it progresses.