Observers have noted for years that improving interior environments can have marked effects in boosting productivity, worker retention and happiness. It has also been known that buildings can harm health (see sick building syndrome) with poor air quality, through mold, toxic off-gassing of volatile organic compounds, draftiness, poor light and so on.
In fact, the financial gains that result from better work are often cited as a major benefit of green building. Now, scientists have taken a closer look at the ability of good design to promote healing, specifically in hospitals.
At the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI) Facilities Design Conference in Denver today, researchers are to present results of a comprehensive overview of data on the subject. Scientists from NACHRI and the Center for Health Design looked at 320 evidence-based studies in the academic literature, and have concluded that the physical environment of health care settings affects the clinical, physiological, psychosocial and safety outcomes among child patients and families.
Specifically, the researchers found evidence that health can be improved by minimizing or eliminating such environmental factors as loud noise, high light levels and infectious pathogens. Why this may not sound like surprising news, it provides further data that builders can specifically point to.
The researchers are recommending some low-cost upgrades that they say are shown to boost health in hospitals, including:
Some more expensive upgrades that can have a positive impact:
Hopefully, the study authors will make more specific data available from their findings in the near future. The news is exciting to those who have been saying for years that more soothing environments and connection to nature are bound to promote healing. Hopefully more research will be done in this area, and perhaps one day healing centers will be designed with a high degree of integration with the natural world. The fluorescent-tube, cold, antiseptic nature of conventional hospitals has often been cited as a possible reason for patients to stay away, or a factor in slower healing.
This work should have applications beyond hospitals as well, as we learn to design buildings (where we spend more and more of our time) to be healthier.
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