The future of health care is now. Whether talking about hospitals, clinics, outpatient facilities, rehabilitation centers, or medical office buildings, these facilities are digital, include hotel-like amenities, and are equipped with intelligent building systems.
One of the most notable trends in the design of health treatment facilities is that hospitals are taking on a “hospitality” flavor; patients are demanding, and receiving, concierge services and amenities that would typically be found in a hotel, such as high-end lobbies, furniture availability for family members to sleep over, on-demand videos, gaming systems, and internet access. Additionally, there is a need to accommodate increased familial participation in health care through patient rooms that are adaptable so they can expand or contract as needed.
Gone are hospitals that are industrial, unfriendly and depressing. Successful lighting design helps to create an environment of healing. Decorative luminaries are used to brighten rooms and common areas. Color temperatures are warmer, more incandescent feeling tones, as opposed to the cold, green fluorescent colors of the past. Higher color rendering fluorescent and metal halide lamps are being used on a regular basis. Incandescent lamps are being used for special, relaxed spaces, to help people to feel less stressed by the environment in which they are residing.
In terms of energy savings for health care facilities, T5 fluorescent lamps at 28 watts each are much more efficient than T8 fluorescent lamps at 32 watts each. Where accent lighting is appropriate, but dimming is not required, metal halide lamps are used instead of incandescent. Dimmable lamps are used as much as possible given the project’s budget. Halogen incandescent lamps are used exclusively to provide not only longer lamp life, but also many more lumens per watt.
Competition among hospitals to remain competitive is fueled in part by investing in new technology. Medical communications systems include specialized systems such as nurse call, infant protection, and medical telemetry. More importantly, they require experienced personnel that can interface with both the medical staff and the design team to understand operational goals. These networked systems provide more than traditional communications. Patient monitoring and access to patient records are modern medical tools for a more efficient medical staff.
Smoke control for health care projects is another particularly complex issue. In addition to treating atriums and stairwells similar to other project types, engineered smoke control systems for patient areas must be provided. Since health care occupancies most likely have areas where evacuating patients is difficult, the HVAC system must be capable of controlling the migration of smoke across smoke barriers. Typically this is accomplished by placing the fire area under negative pressure and surrounding areas under positive pressure. In addition, coordination with the existing smoke control system for renovation projects and complying with local codes for all projects is a must.
There is little denying that water plays an integral role in health care delivery. Aside from the functional uses, though, a new role for water is aesthetic. The use of aquaria in waiting areas is known to have soothing influences on people who are often under considerable stress. The subdued burble of a small fountain or even the energetic display of a large display fountain each serve to relieve tension and allow a focal point that is neither pain nor patient centered. While water features are good for one’s wellness, care must be taken to ensure that they are not bad for one’s health. Notable is control of water-borne pathogens and other infectious agents and their dispersal mechanisms. Location of the equipment, display characteristics and aerosolization, and service practices and frequency are important factors to consider preventing wellness from becoming illness.