Experts discuss future of healthcare design

Published: 28-Mar-2019

Colour choice and the link to wellbeing will be central to interior specifications moving forward, industry panel reveals

Colour choice will become an increasingly-important specification driver for the design of healthcare buildings in the future, according to a panel of leading industry professionals.

An audience of more than 90 specifiers, architects, and design professionals attended a recent event held at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) to launch the Dulux Trade ColourFutures 2019 palettes and explore initiatives that put occupants at the heart of any design brief.

The event included a debate, chaired by Marianne Shillingford, creative director at Dulux, and featuring Ted Szuman, head of innovation at Dulux Trade; Rosemary Jenssen from Jenssen Architecture, representing the ProCure22 Framework; Louise Tod, an independent colourist and creative director; Jim Ashley-Down, managing director at Waldmann Lighting; and Flavie Lowres, associate director at BRE.

The discussion focused on the major changes that experts believe we will see in design in the coming years, with colour and its impact on occupants being a central theme.

Tod introduced the ColourFutures 2019 palettes – Think, Act, Dream and Love – articulating how they all draw on knowledge and research to allow specifiers and architects to create interior design schemes that promote enhanced outcomes in a range of sectors including healthcare.

The speakers agreed there is a need to understand how particular elements of the built environment impact on the subjective wellbeing of the users and to incorporate this into the design of the built environment at the outset of a project.

The increase in focus on wellbeing was a popular discussion point among the speakers, with an agreement that wellbeing is becoming what sustainability was 25 years ago.

Szuman said: “As a business, we think globally, but act locally and I think this trend will only become more prominent, with a big shift from group design to considering individual outcomes.”

The experts also addressed the growing presence of WELL and other industry standards driving the health and wellbeing agenda within the design sector, highlighting the effects their industries will see over the next five to 10 years.

Ashley-Down explained: “Occupants will predominantly see positive effects of regulations like WELL coming into play as design begins to consider occupant outcomes from the outset.”

However, he raised a concern that the UK currently has no recognised standard for wellbeing design and called on the industry as a whole to agree on a template for how to design spaces to aid wellbeing.

Occupants will predominantly see positive effects of regulations like WELL coming into play as design begins to consider occupant outcomes from the outset

Biophilic design, bringing occupants back into contact with nature, was also a big topic of discussion for the panel.

Lowres highlighted that stress-related illness will be the biggest reason for absence by 2020 and id design can help to combat this by narrowing the disconnect between massive city populations and nature through the incorporation of biophilic elements in design.

She then shared insight from the BRE Biophilic Office project, a first-of-its-kind study which will see an entire floor of a working office building at BRE – and the 40 people occupying that space – undergo wide-ranging testing and monitoring to understand the impact of a biophilic refurbishment. The experiment is currently underway with partners including Dulux Trade.

She added: “Task-led design is crucial too. The specific tasks occupants undertake in each space is a very important factor for specifiers and architects when considering design.”

Following a 45-minute discussion, attendees were then invited to pose questions, raising concerns around rapid advances within technology and their impact on design.

The panel unanimously concluded that technology improvements only helped to strengthen the impact of colour and design, allowing greater measurement of the impact of colour on occupants.

The morning culminated in a keynote address, with Jenssen emphasising that in the healthcare sector it is crucial for design to be focused on operational outcomes, highlighting the example of Chase Farm Hospital, which incorporates useful wayfinding features such as patient, visitor and staff doors being different colours.

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