What the next generation of hospitals must learn from office design

5th November 2020

The principles of flexibility and wellness must be placed at the heart of the design process for hospitals, Alex Solk writes for The Architects' Journal

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While clinical advances and technology in healthcare have progressed rapidly, hospital design – and the quality of spaces the sector provides – is often overlooked. However, the pandemic has created impetus for the sector to embrace new design thinking, leading designers to ask: what can healthcare learn from the agility of other sectors? I am particularly interested in drawing a parallel with offices and how this sector has put flexibility and wellness at the heart of the design process.

Over the past decade we have seen workplaces freely adopt new ideas, with the architect and designer central to this process. Hospital schemes over the same period have often lacked the latitude or budget for fresh design thinking. With the government’s commitment to its new £3.7 billion hospital building plan, there is a real opportunity for change.

At the top of the list of advances in workplace is the championing of wellness. While good design should always have people and health-centric considerations, new accreditation has allowed workplace professionals to push this further, with wellness principles used as a way of demonstrating an organisation’s investment in people and, ultimately, used to attract and retain the best staff.

Wellness in the workplace is as vital to hospital design as it is to rethinking our offices. However, key design ideas—such as maximising natural light and framing views—need to be prioritised further in hospital design. While the primary focus should remain on the technical spaces that allow hospitals to provide the best care, this emphasis should not come at the expense of wider considerations about the physical and mental wellbeing of staff as well as patients. The holistic definition of wellness and its application to hospital design is made even more timely when considering the ongoing crisis in the NHS.

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