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Healing Connections in the Built Environment

Healing Connections in the Built Environment“: A built environment significantly impacts various other factors surrounding it. However, being static is related to the movement of people around and through the structures. These spatial movements in and out of the built environment substantially influence the urban footprint and its functioning.

How? The most .obvious impacts of the built environment were felt when during the industrial revolution. The period where unsanitary conditions and overcrowded public spots initiated the primary health threat of the contagious disease facilitated the spread of infection.

The first evidence of the direct connection between the built environment and public health was witnessed during the 19th century. The century was the onlooker of hundreds of thousands of workers living in crowded industrial cities resulting in the outbreak of epidemics and diseases. This was the beginning of dramatic improvements in urbanization. Zonal development to move residential areas away from industrial areas, proper sanitation, and increases in building designs were abundant that significantly led to significant improvements in health.

Healing Connections in the Built Environment image1
Source: Aniket Deole on Unsplash; built environment has a huge impact on health and well being
Image 1: Healing Connections in the Built Environment

However, a century later, we are standing at the same place with almost the same conditions. There has been an existential crisis in most parts of the world. And the prime cities of the world are the worst sufferers. Irony right? Yes! We all have been feeling the same way about it lately. It is devastating to see urbanization at its finest succumbing to the current situation. 

The architecture of the built environment is on the verge of acknowledging this transitional phase. The focus is gradually shifting from improving the aspects of the building to enhancing the user experience concerning the spatial movements.

As the world is up against a pandemic, medical professionals are under massive pressure. We have seen how countries are now paying attention to enhance medical infrastructure. Since architecture is a significant part of a successful healthcare system, we will discuss how the built environment influences the public’s health, particularly about the current urban lifestyle.

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Source: NAC Architecture; integrating design to enhance healing
Image 2: Healing Connections in the Built Environment

In this article, we will discuss more efficient, sustainable, and practical design principles that address people’s movement within the built environment. We have mainly focussed on hospital design as the recent events have highlighted the need for a robust and well-functioning healthcare system.

Healthcare architecture has seen a drastic shift. It was primarily focused on the aesthetical aspects and sensory stimuli. Still, the focus has been re-directed towards healthcare professionals and how the built environment impacts their quality of work.

Built Environment: Laying out momentum

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Source: Victor Torres – the constant movements of doctors and nurses from one patient to another.
Image 3: Healing Connections in the Built Environment

The layout of space directly impacts the movement of people. Predicting the movement can aid in designing such a building type to enhance its function. Integrating this principle in building design would best complement the design approach. For instance, in office buildings, the spaces’ layout is divided into two areas – segregated spaces to foster meetings and more privacy, whereas integrated areas to cater to social interactions. Employees in an office have their desks and have established routes for movements. Contrary to a hospital, the action is more often as doctors and nurses continuously walk from one patient to another. The changes here are not established but are unpredictable.

Given this, the design approach for healthcare settings should be primarily focussed on minimizing walking distances to save time and increase efficiency.

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Built Environment: Encouraging the views

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Source: HuntonBrady Architects; Large windows to provide the views outside can lead to better health results.
Image 4: Healing Connections in the Built Environment

Moving on to the next design approach, any healthcare setting’s sole purpose is to enhance the environment for a patient to heal. The goal is directly related to the efficiency and effectiveness of the medical professionals. Studies suggest that creating spaces that can result in unplanned interactions between colleagues can improve care performance and quality. This will also lead to minimizing the chances of miscommunications. Hence the design approach should be to provide large spaces that connect all patient rooms. Interconnectivity at such a scale will lead to high visibility levels to doctors and nurses. Not only the medical staff but providing great views will also distract patients from seeing the other side rather than staring at other sick people all day.

Built Environment: Enhancing movements

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Source: Orange County Register; Doctor facilitating the movement of a patient in the space-efficient lobby.
Image 5: Healing Connections in the Built Environment

Health care facilities are often rated in terms of the number of beds available. Consequently, the design approach here remains more bed occupancy, more number of private rooms, and little space for walking.

However, the shift in design dynamics has changed the scenarios. Medical infrastructure now contributes to overall health care, which will require patients to get up and around. Integrating this design principle will result in spacious layouts that will encourage movements and delivering health care in the truest form. 

Public health is an influential voice in shaping the world. In any built environment where healthcare is served, these principles will result in better health outcomes. The world is going through a pandemic, a time where our healthcare infrastructure is under massive pressure. It is high time to acknowledge the much-required shift in built environment designs to be ready for the post-pandemic era. As designers, we must think of the new and additional measures to account for future design considerations.

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I hope this article will help, PLease don’t forget to give your feedback in the comment section below – Healing Connections in the Built Environment.

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