Why does wellness matter in the healthcare industry?
With 90% of our time estimated to be spent indoors, buildings can have an undeniably profound impact on the health, happiness, and well-being of its occupants.
As the population increases so too does the demand and capacity of our healthcare industry. With so many people using our healthcare buildings, from vulnerable patients to staff members to visitors, it is understandable that this industry has a keen interest in designs that promote the health and wellness of their occupants. Research on WELL certified buildings has shown reduction of sick days, retention of staff due to improved working environment and speedy recovery of patients in a healthy and resilient environment.
The WELL building standard provides a platform and framework to improve the interaction between building and human health
Certifying to the WELL standard for healthcare buildings demonstrates dedication in optimising health and wellness both for the staff, patients and visitors, thus enhancing the holistic view towards healthcare design, construction and operation.
Improving the positive experience of patients and visitors
The WELL standard shares the same principles of functional medicine, it looks at the external factors that are responsible for improving wellbeing.
Here are some of a few strategies which are known to create the feeling of ‘delight’ for all patients, staff and visitors to a hospital.
1. Integrating design elements and artwork
The ethos of artwork mainly painting and murals in Hospitals is to use art to inspire better health and wellbeing. These opportunities to integrate public art into the design can positively impact patient’s mood and morale and can help building occupants derive a measure of comfort or joy from their surroundings.
2. Lighting to alleviate mood
Special care is taken to consider lighting which supports the body’s natural circadian rhythm and designing spaces to include biophilia natural light (recreating the sun’s natural glow). Improving Circadian light quality (both daylight/natural light and artificial lighting) also helps reduce the length of hospitalisation and medical intervention time for patients and also improve sleep patterns, cognitive and emotional health of both staff and patients.
3. Connection to nature indoors
The WELL standard provides plenty of opportunities to provide connection to nature indoors by creating indoor Therapeutic and healing gardens in hospital interior landscapes. Adding Biophilia, like live allergy free plants or living walls, can reduce stress levels in patients. Other design strategies would be creating water features, providing artwork, seating, amenities and allowing plenty of natural daylight into indoor spaces
4. Access to breakout/restorative spaces
With long working hours exaggerated by the challenges of the Pandemic, it has never been more important that healthcare design must also cater to the needs of the staff to ensure they are productive and efficient. Patient care will suffer if staff feel stressed in the space they work in. Well standard promotes the design of collaborative and interactive spaces to cater to the Millennials and Generation Z patients and staff.
5. Good daylight and views
Providing good daylight and view out in working spaces such as consultation rooms, collaborative working spaces and wards ensures best practice in visual performance and occupant comfort of hospital staff. This is achieved by ensuring 70% of all workstations are within 5 m of transparent envelope glazing and Visible light transmittance (VLT) is greater than 40%.
6. Good indoor air quality
Specifying healthy materials in all interior finishes with low VOC’s or no VOC’s will ensure that the there is good indoor air quality and staff will not be exposed to the short- and long-term health effects from VOC’s which can be dangerous. WSP has developed the Healthy Building Toolkit which looks into benefits of specifying finishes with low VOC’s.
7. Design to promote active lifestyle
WELL provides opportunities to promote active lifestyle for staff by providing cycle storage and changing facilities such as showers, changing rooms and lockers, and promote the use of stairs instead of lifts and escalators. Stairs will be made visible and aesthetically appealing to both staff and visitors use by incorporating artwork, music and natural light and providing indoor gyms and active workstations.
8. Viral response strategies against COVID 19
A few strategies include improving air quality standard by providing increased ventilation to prevent air stagnation and keeping indoor air refreshed as much as possible to prevent the spread of influenza. There is also evidence that humidity can play a role in the survival of viruses such as COVID-19. As such, WELL standard requires maintaining relative humidity between 40% and 60% which will help to limit the spread and survival of COVID-19.
Related Content - Healthy Building tool kit
WSP has developed the WSP Healthy Building Toolkit which looks at when to carry out occupant surveys and what data needs to be gathered for example user specific data, building design and management information, productivity and indoor environmental quality etc. The results from the surveys can then be used to inform new designs and close the performance gap between design and operational performance. These tool kits can be used to inform the Post occupancy evaluations required to be implemented as part of the WELL and BREEAM strategies.