Study Proves Good Design Means Healthier Patients

TreeHugger loves wood buildings; it sinks a lot of carbon and uses less energy to build. It is also warm and attractive, we have a natural affinity for it compared to say, concrete. Architect Tye Farrow likes it too; he wanted to bring elements of nature- sunlight, living trees, timber from British Columbia, symbols of life, into a hospital wing devoted to cancer and ambulatory care.

It also turns out that good design is good for your health too; a study was done by Queens University researcher Karen Parent, tracking 63 breast-cancer patients and 10 nurses through the cramped old building and a year later when the new cancer centre was open. According to Leslie Scrivener in the Star:

Parent stresses the value of being able to measure benefits. "We're talking about how to build buildings to make a difference to people's health," she says. "Isn't it great to say, `We can prove it, too.'

"It's not only beautiful, but it brings such value to patients and staff. It's something so clear that, ethically, we can't ignore it."

An illustration: floors made of rubber or sheet vinyl reduce noise for patients. As a result, elderly patients, in particular, are less likely to need sleeping pills, less likely to suffer confusion because of the medications, therefore less likely to fall and, Parent concludes, more likely to have better outcomes.

It's believed that the Credit Valley lobby, with its richly coloured supports curved to look like tree limbs, is one of the most intricate wood assemblies in North America. As such, there was some early concern about using wood as a building material in a hospital because of fire code restrictions. Farrow met the Ontario Fire Marshal's objections by introducing a specialized sprinkler system, usually used on cruise ships, atop the wooden arches.

The tree has become a trademark of his work. "It represents an organic, historical symbol – our first buildings were of stone and wood – it's culturally ingrained."

He calls it "organic functionalism – we're less interested in the formal sequence of space, axial and directional, and more interested in something that is more like a loose-fitting sweater, something you can move through and feel comfortable. There is less rigidity. You can breathe in and out." ::The Star and ::Farrow Partnership

From the architects website:

The Credit Valley Hospital's 320,000 square foot Cancer Care and Ambulatory Care facility includes Complex Continuing Care, Rehabilitation, Maternal Child Care, Laboratory Services and Emergency Room renovations. These recently completed renovations and additions are phase one of a three-phase $349 million dollar project designed to serve the future health care needs of Mississauga.

The dramatic spaces and warm materials of the new facility promote humanistic healing practices among patients and staff.

Award: 2005 Wood Design Award (Large Institutional), Wood Works / Canadian Wood Council Canada.

Tags: Architecture