Hospital designers urged to be bolder with colour

3-Jan-2012

Link is made between colour and wellbeing

Hospital designers and estates and facilities managers are being urged to take more risks when it comes to creating the perfect environment for patients.

Sam Boex, a partner in design company, Boex, is calling for more attention to be paid to the colour palette used when designing healthcare buildings.

His comments come after the company worked on a number of flagship projects in which colour has been used both to define spaces and impact positively on how patients feel about using the facilities.

He told BBH : “Colour can have a subconscious effect and there is quite a lot of evidence to show it has an impact on the heart rate.

“Colour can be used to help people navigate around spaces or to feel more comfortable in a particular environment. For example, in a waiting room if you just have beige walls and 50 seats all in a row, people will not feel as comfortable as if the space is divided up and they can choose. By giving people more choice within a space, you are also giving them more control. Colour is very useful to help provide this choice without having to make large-scale changes to a building.”

And he appealed to interior designers and estates teams to embrace colour and move away from the traditional healthcare palette.

He said: “Healthcare professionals are risk averse and I think they should take more of a risk with colour. It can have a huge effect on spaces in so many ways and we need to make bolder choices.”

Young people visiting the Barbara Castle Way centre can choose the colour of their treatment room depending on their mood or preference

Young people visiting the Barbara Castle Way centre can choose the colour of their treatment room depending on their mood or preference

Working with Lime Arts and Blackburn and Darwen PCT, Boex helped to redesign a reception area and consultation rooms at the Barbara Castle Way Health Centre in Blackburn. Young people now have a choice of consultation rooms, each based on a different colour, which they can choose to reflect their mood. The design was based on a workshop with teenagers.

The company also worked with ArtCare at Salisbury District Hospital to build a teen waiting room and day assessment unit around the themes of treetops and water worlds. Colour has played a huge part in helping to bring those themes to life.

And the team has worked on dementia wards, where colour has the very real impact of helping patients whose cognitive and visual abilities are compromised. In this case, teal blue walls contrast against brown upholstery and ash wood, helping to differentiate between different areas.

Boex said: “The colour totally depends on the situation. Blues and greens are good in places with good natural light, but can have a less positive impact in areas where there are no windows, for example.”

He added that more research was needed to provide a better evidence base for teams to use when procuring new buildings or refurbishing existing facilities.

He said: “We really do need to gather more evidence around the area of colour. There is not a huge amount of evidence abut the impact colour could have on patient recovery rates, but we are aware that it does have an impact when combined with other environmental factors, such as the use of lighting. In these cases wellbeing is much improved.

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“We believe colour does have a huge impact and will be working with academics and researchers to monitor the before ad after effects and to begin to create the evidence base that is needed.”

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