Creating a wholesome healthcare environment

By Mary Holt / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
March 21, 2017

Healthcare facilities have multi-faceted goals when considering facility upgrades or new ground up projects.  While striving to attract new patients they must meet stringent health standards especially in regards to infection control.

Design excellence which is often validated through patient studies, drives a great deal of the intention.  A recent survey of healthcare professionals conducted by the American Society of Healthcare Engineering showed that 86 percent of respondents noted patient satisfaction as “very important” when considering design changes to health facilities and services.

Healthcare facility managers typically have a limited arsenal of décor elements they can utilize since many organic materials and art work are off limits due to infection control considerations.  In light of this limitation, textiles and wall coverings present a unique opportunity to make an important design impact for design professionals.

“With all of the stringent guidelines in patient rooms, oftentimes the only tactile element is the privacy curtain,” said Karen Miller, Senior Interior Healthcare Designer with Ewing Cole.  “Textiles that meet these guidelines, especially in a sustainable way, have the ability to bring a more tender touch to both common areas and patient rooms otherwise filled with monitors and lifesaving equipment.”

Healthcare facilities are taking much of their design cues from hospitality spaces. “Clients want their high-traffic health facilities to look like five star hotels, which means products have to deliver on high functionality while still incorporating trends and delivering on top design,” Miller said. “But to excel in that regard, you have to go even beyond that. To give the best experience possible, you have to blur the lines between the home, the hotel, the wellness center, a favorite article of clothing – to elevate the feeling of normalcy and provide beauty.”

To achieve this ambitious combination of hospitality ambiance and healthcare stringent requirements a blend of style and performance is in great demand.  For vertical surfaces this often means that traditional materials such as paint simply fall short.  While it is a low up front cost product; it requires repetitive upkeep and has limited design impact.

Carnegie’s Xorel, released in 1981 and later further developed to a Biobased version in 2013, is widely used in healthcare projects across the globe.  It is inherently anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-staph and SCS Indoor Advantage Gold for indoor air quality. Xorel is also Cradle to Cradle Certified proving its strong environmental safety platform. Xorel performs as a wallcovering, fabric panel or for upholstery, and is available in hundreds of colors, patterns, and embroidery options, including the latest collection of embellished metallics.

The high-performance wallcoverings collection also includes a vast TPO offering, which meets type II vinyl performance, and a line of Durable Wovens, resistant to tears and abrasions with a natural, hand woven appearance. In addition, these products can contribute to the building’s LEED points.

A huge challenge within healthcare facilities is the issue of noise and its affect on recovery and wellness.  Buzzing reception phones, beeping machines and loud medical crises can quickly make patients and visitors feel panicked and uncomfortable. In the aforementioned survey, 66 percent of respondents noted they are converting semiprivate rooms to private rooms in order to meet patient preferences for quieter spaces.

Noise problems in large wait and lobby areas can be addressed with Xorel Artform, a line of sustainable, acoustical panels that can be easily installed with a Velcro or QuickGrab adhesive method, which means less time is spent with the area closed off to staff, patients and visitors. Panels are available in four shapes across three sizes, and with hundreds of fabric, pattern and embroidery options, they create an acoustical mosaic.  Best of all since the product is covered with the high performance Xorel product, it can be cleaned with the same protocol as other high performance materials in the facility.

Another recent breakthrough has been the introduction of Acoustical Sheers.  These fabrics absorb a great deal of sound in a room while still allowing light transparency; until recently an unheard of functional combination.  

These types of products are crucial to contributing to an overall healthier environment in hospitals, as Miller can attest to, having worked on over 17 million square feet of international projects, the majority being healthcare. “Products that benefit the earth and environment directly impact and inform health and well-being now and for the future,” she said.

Well informed designers and facility managers are making careful selections of materials for healthcare spaces; all the while balancing patient and employee well being and the environmental impact of those  selections on the planet. 

Design plays a critical role in the healing process by connecting the mind, body and spirit and carefully chosen materials can help contribute to that end.

Mary Holt is the Excectuive VP Creative at Carnegie


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