By Don Marshall, Principal & Partner with ThomsonAdsett
Designing and building a medical precinct is always a unique challenge.
Architectural requirements for healthcare buildings are extremely diverse. From small specialist offices and health hubs to hospitals that help thousands of patients daily, each facility uses a unique combination of design details to serve local communities and facilitate multi-disciplinary care givers and operational providers.
When it comes to choosing the right architectural solutions for healthcare buildings, flexibility and efficiency are key. No two facilities operate in the exact same way, so architects must take this into consideration when they design these facilities.
From an architectural point-of-view it is vital the design reflects an intimate understanding of the importance of creating a quality environment that attracts the right tenants and retains patients, while ensuring durability and functionality. Signage, interaction with surrounds and accessibility play key parts in this, of course alongside aesthetics.
The design asset
Given its functional complexities, specialist medical architecture starts with strategic planning; analysing in detail the experience in each zone for all end-users, so that areas are designed to provide efficient functionality and ease of movement that play down the clinical aspects to create welcoming, relaxing spaces that enhance the healing environment. A balance of public and private realms is important to ensure comfort, security, privacy and interaction where appropriate.
Healthcare design must focus on the way doctors, nurses, administration staff and patients experience the facility while prioritising patient well-being.
Despite their many differences, all medical complexes have something in common; the architects who create them tend to focus on three important details: exterior design, entrance design and interior design and flow. The medical market, whether private or public, is a competitive one. Beyond service provision, the built environment can determine the patient engagement with one facility over another. Destination drawcards such as café inclusions can drive a precinct’s success. Aspects such as signage, tenancy visibility, brand application and ease of access for customers remain key considerations.
Medical precincts need to cater for complex medical equipment and be highly functional so that staff can work efficiently and respond rapidly to emergencies. But a medical facility also needs to find an aesthetic balance between operable use and comfort for patients.
The layout and interior design should reassure people they’re receiving quality care while also helping them feel as relaxed as possible. Taking a considered approach to each project will deliver a unique and memorable patient experience and desirable working environment.
Location is key
The competition for new patients is increasingly steering medical practices to non-hospital campuses as they seek more conveniently accessible locations for their patient base.
Furthermore it is increasingly common to see healthcare providers take space in smaller community retail centres, retirement communities or high-rises near hospital campuses. Accessibility is also aligned with multi-service precincts where people can shop, eat, work, play, learn in one location.
The future Noosa Health Precinct is an example of what will be an easily accessible facility located adjacent to the popular retail hub, Noosa Civic, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
ThomsonAdsett studio leader, Gavin Kickbush, is currently working to deliver this stand-alone facility which will offer more than 6000sq m of state-of-the-art medical space, including a day hospital, medical imaging, cancer care, and serviced offices for medical staff.
He said patient and specialist convenience had been a strong consideration during the design phase to create a precinct that was both attractive and functional.
The facility will provide a highly sought-after amenity to the area and fulfill future health care needs in the Noosa region.
Gavin stressed when designing the base building, a strong knowledge of medical environments, equipment and functional requirements was essential.
“Things like floor slab types and how they are reinforced, air-conditioning strategies, ceiling heights are all factors architects need to consider in a medical fit-out to make sure the building will meet the requirements of future tenants and make it a successful venture,” he said.
Good access to natural daylight to reflect the Noosa environment was also a key design feature.
“The precinct has been designed where two buildings are joined by a three-storey glass foyer allowing light to flood into the centre of the buildings creating a welcoming and calming space below,” Gavin said.
“It’s vital to understand your target audience and what they value.”
“Noosa clientele are looking for a high-end, quality experience from the moment they arrive and start to move through the facility so that must be reflected in the design and materials used.”
Promoting wellness through design
As this industry continues to quickly evolve, we need to adapt and stay one step ahead in order to help medical clients provide the best possible environment for their staff and patients.
Some of the most popular features in medical practice design right now, both in Australia and around the world, include serene interiors to reduce anxiety, a ‘home away from home’ aesthetics, noise reduction, maximized natural light, gardens and garden/water views, casual cafes and lounge areas, and multi- purpose furniture. Wellness is beyond the obvious macro considerations and the smallest of detailed observations can improve the experience.
Many people get nervous when they visit hospitals and other healthcare facilities. This may be because they associate these buildings with unpleasant past experiences, such as an illness or injury. Their anxiety often begins as soon as they reach the building’s entrance.
However, when architects use a more welcoming architectural style, healthcare buildings appear much less intimidating to patients and visitors. One of the best ways to make patients and visitors feel more at ease is by designing accessible entrances that feel bright and open and continue this design approach through the environment, both for patients and staff. Facilities must be valuable to visit but must also be engaging to work within.
Modern medical facilities are becoming much more community-driven and provide a greater number of specialised services to patients.
To meet these high expectations, architects take a creative approach to the design process. They make healthcare facilities look less like sterile medical centres and more like a calming home away from home.
It’s a tough balance to achieve but designing a medical precinct can be one of the most rewarding types of projects to be a part of.
This article was originally published by Hospital + Healthcare here.