Blog :

Patient Room Design Insight and Strategies Tool

Patient Room Design Insight and Strategies Tool

chd wall

I ran across this cool interactive guideline for patient rooms (including med surg, ICU and maternity) on the Center for Health Design’s site

It offers evidence based design strategies for elements in the room based on the desirable outcomes of users (for example how walls can both reduce patient stress and anxiety and improve job satisfaction).

Seasoned healthcare designers obviously already incorporate a lot of these, but the graphics and site navigation is really quite nice.  It makes me think about how we can use graphics and tools like this to develop architecture with users new to the design process.

On Color

On Color

The challenge with color is that everyone is allowed an opinion, disastrous as it may be.

Color is a fundamental element of design.  Not only of space, but of the clothes we wear, the websites we visit, even the food we eat.  It impacts our psychological, social, cultural, and physical reactions.  It aids in relaxation as easily as it increases agitation.  Color has the ability to make us think time is going by slower than it actually is.  It is noted to be able to aid in getting our blood flowing.  It offers no one universal reaction; to some green means means growth and strength, while to other it means envy.  White palettes in healthcare settings can be perceived as clean and crisp, but they can also be felt as sterile and cold.  Color is influenced by the light quality and source, the shape and size of its application, and the geography of the location.   The bright values which complement the sunny California beaches may look like a plea for help against the drab grey skies of the Northwest.

It’s because of this that it’s so hard to find a good evidence based resource for selecting a color for desired application.  So what is an architect to do when something in her gut says she should speak up about the yellow walls in the exam rooms or dark red chairs in the conference center?  Furthermore, how does one correctly select a color or palette that may aid in the diagnosis and treatment of our fellow man?

The more I research, the more I learn how little evidence is out there.  The best one can do is start with an idea and refine based on the program and objectives.  There are, however, some general guidelines¹ to follow:

1.  The place must be a dignified and respectful appearance while being attractive.

2.  Selected colors must play a psychological and aesthetic role by promoting the healing process by guarding the physiological and psychological well being of the patient and being an aid in accurate medical diagnosis, surgery performance, and therapeutic rehabilitation.  It must also enhance light, visual ergonomics, support orientation, supplying information, defining specific area, and improving working conditions through visual means.

3.  Lighting must be chosen with respect of unction, psychological reinforcement, visual appeal, color rendition, and biological concerns.

 Based on what I learned, I put together a chart of color guidelines as a place to start.  While specific decisions cannot be made without attention to the program specifics of a project, it is a good place to start.   At best there can only be recommendations for color selection.  Countless evidence based design studies on color theory have determined that nothing can be actually determined.

^Remedy Color

color chart – click for full size 


1.  Tofle, Ruth Brent Ph.D. et al.  Color In Healthcare Environments – A Research Report.  Coalition for Health Environments Research.  2003.

2.  Mythbusting: Colour Therapy – Evidence Based Design Journal

3.  Bosch, Sheila J., Ph.D. et. al. The Application of color in Healthcare Settings.   The Center for Heath Design.  October 2012.

Palomar Medical Center

Palomar Medical Center

I have never been so excited to see a relite in my life.  Daylight spilling into an operating room from a lightwell beyond in the staff corridor?  I suddenly have a little more confidence that good things can happen in this field.

Image (c) 2015 CO Architects, available here.

On Taking an Oath

On Taking an Oath

When I became an architect I didn’t take an oath.  I didn’t stand up and publicly swear to protect the health, safety, and welfare of for those whom I design.  I didn’t promise to uphold the tenants of my profession so long as I practice the craft.   After a decade of academic and practical study, the moment that signified my professional status was an email from my state board followed up with a certificate in the mail.   I told my immediate family personally and shared the news with my greater social circle by posting a photo of my license online.  In hindsight, my proclamation was no different than those who share an engagement, new baby, or house purchase.  We live in an era where momentous news is circulated quickly and digitally, soon to be pushed down the line to make room for the next announcement.

Those of us in the industry understand what it means to become an architect, it’s a huge milestone in one’s professional career.  Finally receiving my license mattered a hell of a lot to me and I know that this new phase I’m entering is not something to take lightly.  New titles lead to new responsibilities be they ethical or performance related.  And yet as I celebrated the news, the question that often surfaced was an iteration of the following:

“So what’s that mean?  Do you get a raise or something?”

It’s had my brain whirling and my gut churning.  If being an architect is such a big deal to us within the profession, why don’t we do a better job of expressing it to those who aren’t?   If we want the general public to value architects perhaps the first step is publicly expressing how much we value them.

For years there have been writings and discussions of an architect’s Hippocratic Oath, a variation of the pledge many medical professionals take to ethically practice medicine.   The AIA Code of Ethics and Bylaws  address the responsibilities members hold to the public they serve, and the high level of standards to continue to build upon their knowledge in architecture, and the dedication to show competence and care through the decisions they make.

Bottom line, we will strive to do the best we can for the good of the project and for the betterment of the world around it.   What client or stakeholder doesn’t want to hear that?

Maybe that’s the key we need to take to get the general population to understand what we do.  That becoming an architect is so much more than an occasion to drop the term “intern” (or whatever title it may be) from our introductions and signatures.   That what we do matters and that we’re here to look out for mankind.

Becoming an architect should be an opportunity to make a pledge to give a damn from here on out.

I’m ready to stand up.

Firehouse Clinics

Firehouse Clinics


I recently learned about  the Firehouse Clinic project during a talk about social outcomes to architecture by John Peterson of Public Architecture.

The story is that there is a critical need for primary care services in Alameda County near San Francisco.  Too many of the low income residents rely on emergency department visits and services for care given the lack of other available options.  The initial concept was to put clinics near public schools, but hours and security restraints for both stopped that.  The team realized they could leverage the trust that firefighters have with their communities as they typically are perceived more favorably than other public servants (i.e. law enforcement and the conflicts that tends to arise with them). A firefighter’s mission generally is to do good in the community without much of an extra agenda.  Stations are plentiful and dispersed throughout the county, even in neighborhoods that don’t have other services.  And fire personal are typically trained EMT’s who are responding to medical issues as a big portion of their job anyway.  They’re an ideal partner.

All images (c) WRNS Studio, available here.