Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice

The last couple of decades have seen a major development of research into the impact of architectural design on the success of healthcare environments (Lawson, 2004a). We maintain a database of such research for the Department of Health in the UK and are now aware of around 1000 relevant items of research focusing on but not exclusive to hospitals. The evidence suggests factors under the control of architects that can make significant differences to patient satisfaction, quality of life, treatment times, levels of medication, displayed aggression, sleep patterns, and compliance with regimes among many other similar factors. Studies range in size and scope. Some are multi-factorial and some much more parametric. Some concentrate on specific factors, such Roger Ulrich’s seminal paper that demonstrated the effect of views on the rate of recovery from surgery (Ulrich, 1984). Some are small and little more than anecdotal, while others are major longitudinal controlled investigations, such as Lawson and Phiri’s work at two UK hospitals (Lawson & Phiri, 2003).
A study by Berry et al. using data from the USA and building on the work of Roger Ulrich suggested that only a relatively small additional capital cost might be needed in order to achieve a very substantial chunk of the benefits this research identifies. A theoretical 300-bed hospital, dubbed Fable, was imagined on a typical suburban site (Berry et al., 2004). Extra items suggested by the research included larger private, acuity adaptable en-suite rooms with large windows for better views, decentralized nurse stations, more art and community space, better technical air-handling plant and noise control facilities, and so on. Financial analysis suggested that around 5% additional capital cost might be required, but the research indicates operational savings returning around the same sum annually.

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