Nature has always played a big role in the healing process. Japanese Zen gardens, monastic or cloister gardens of the past created a soothing environment and provided great respite for patients. Nature-health relationship has been studied to a great extent and biophilic design patterns have shown to provide opportunities for mental restoration and overall well-being. Empirical studies have shown that experiences with the natural environment provide greater emotional restoration, with lower instances of anxiety, anger, fatigue, tension, and confusion than urban environments with a limited presence of nature.
Cultural Change in Hospital Designs
Research carried out by Ulrich and others have shown the relationship between exposure to nature and the increased ability of surgical patients to recover. Increasing number of studies have confirmed the benefits of biophilic designs in hospital settings and how it helps patients in mood and recovery. This has led to a cultural change in hospital designs which are incorporating biophilic patterns and processes aimed at boosting patient health and well-being. Several studies have shown that incorporating biophilic patterns in hospitals can have a positive impact by reducing stress and pain and improving overall emotional well-being of patients. As hospitals are looking at new approaches and continue to re-think their designs, this kind of biophilic design helps humanize spaces by considering their needs in their entirety.
Biophilic Design and Hospitals
Hospitals can be exceptionally stressful spaces not only for patients but for their families as well. A space that is welcoming, aesthetically pleasing, and mentally soothing promotes the development of a greater sense of trust and calm. Visual connection with nature is one of the biggest aspects of biophilic design and is known to lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve mental engagement and positively impact attitude and overall happiness. Non-visual connection with nature has shown to reduce systolic blood pressure and stress hormones and shown perceived improvements in mental health and tranquillity.
Water features in hospitals reduce stress and are connected to lowered heart rate and blood pressure, enhanced psychological responsiveness, and positive emotional response. Sunlight and windows to nature are especially important in hospital designs and provide excellent benefits to patients. Biophilic hospital designs improve the patient’s ability to recover and the hospital building itself. They also contribute to the hospitals economically, as even the hospital staff benefit from the biophilic design and improved workspace. The biophilic design promotes staff health which in turn, reduces sick leave, improves employee satisfaction and attention levels.
According to Ulrich’s research, hospitalization was reduced by 8 percent by looking at greenery and nature. A study by Marcus and Barnes also confirmed that 95% of patients and families exposed to direct contact with nature reported lowered stress levels, more positive thoughts, and increased coping ability. Exposure to natural sunlight has been associated with improvement in mood, reduced mortality among patients with cancer, and reduced length of hospitalization for patients who have experienced myocardial infarction.
Incorporating biophilic designs in hospitals reconnects humans with nature and is capable of boosting patient’s health and improving their recovery.