Architectural Design of Healthcare Buildings

The design and construction of healthcare buildings require a specialist design and organisation due to the healthcare and patient priorities that will inhabit the space. The understanding of quality in healthcare buildings have changed over time, while in the beginning the architecture was being taken in the same sense as structural security, aesthetics and functional efficiency, afterwards, physical and psychological needs played a key part in their design. Nowadays, when healthcare buildings are constructed, it has become compulsory to design these buildings to provide a healing environment.

The main priority in the design and construction of healthcare buildings such as hospitals, healthcare centres, rehabilitation centres and doctors surgeries has been to provide a peaceful and comfortable environment for the patient, patient relatives and healthcare personnel. The aesthetics of the space has become far less important as it will often affect the healthcare services provided in the building.

As a result of the progress in science and technology in the field of healthcare; examination equipment, diagnosis and treatment methods, medical applications and devices are always improving and have to be accommodated in the spaces available. Also: lights, ventilation, heating, windows and electricals all play an important aspect of the design, they will need to provide the correct balance and maintain a comfortable and safe environment for anyone inhabiting this space.


Natural light and comfortable surroundings

Healthcare buildings need to be designed and constructed in such a way as to allow easy access and movement for the elderly, children, people with disabilities and medical personnel.  Space in corridors and lifts need to be carefully planned to cater for easy movement of beds, equipment and patients.  You will always see particularly wide walkways and corridors in all hospitals so they can cater for regular movements around the facility.


Wide corridors in a typical hospital

It is very important to adopt a patient-centred design approach, which means the highest priority should be the patient and all their needs. For example, patients and their relatives may be anxious or upset, at this point the design of the space should help to calm and comfort the patient and relatives. Children need to have a bright and vibrant atmosphere to feel comfortable so colours play an important part in children’s wards.  Every detail, of every section of a medical facility needs to be carefully thought through so as to maintain its requirements and sole purpose.


Child friendly atmosphere

Some key points of design are detailed below and all points should form the design development plan, also ensure medical professional guidance and research is included in the plans to ensure all important factors are covered.

Patient-centred design – should be functional:

Healthcare buildings should be useful and efficient in terms of spatial organisation and circulation. The design should reflect the appropriate space standards and include all the technical standards which need to be met such as material, accessories, visual, auditory, thermal and comfort conditions.

Patient-centred design – should be accessible:

Healthcare building and the environment should be accessible for everyone. The fact that pedestrian and handicapped transportation has been carefully considered for quick access, along with parking areas for ambulances, public transport and emergency vehicles are the basic conditions for accessibility.

Patient-centred design – should be helpful for finding directions:

The layout and size of the facility can often be confusing to maneuver so the plan needs to include signs that are clearly visible and easy to understand. Possibly using markings and colour coordination can also be helpful to find floors or sections of a hospital.

Patient-centred design – should provide social support:

Healthcare building should enable usage for social purposes. Areas such as religious spaces, which will provide support to patients, and places that provide comfortable seating (including childcare facilities) or meeting areas for patients and their relatives should have been designed.

Patient-centred design – should provide privacy and autonomy:

The necessary privacy in patient rooms should be provided. Personalised spaces should be available, lighting and temperature can be controlled by the patient when required; options such as television and music which patients can use individually should be available.  Outside noise should be kept to a minimum.

Patient-centred design – should be aesthetic:

A design which creates a healing environment both indoors and outdoors aesthetically should be generated. To speed up the healing process; colour, texture, light, landscape and art objects could be used, music could also be used appropriately and can be incorporated in the environment. Natural landscape should be particularly preferred, however in cases where this is not possible, nature is relocated indoors in the form of waterfalls, aquariums and plants.

Patient-centred design – should be secure:

A secure physical environment should be provided for the patient, patient relatives and healthcare personnel. The necessary precautions should be taken within the healthcare building, in consideration of possible infection, safety, theft, extortion incidents, fire, natural disasters and crisis scenarios.



We have focused on certain general requirements, however thorough examination of all the needs can change depending on the facility. For example, rehabilitation centres may require swimming facilities and large outside spaces for exercising.  One thing they all have in common is that the design of these spaces all require a patient centred approach, ensuring all the spaces are utilised for the sole purpose of healthcare.

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