Safer Interiors by Design


Foremost in the mind of a healthcare interior designer is to provide an interior environment that truly is contributing to the healing process of its inhabitants. At no point should the design, the lighting, the finish or furniture selections be detrimental to the health and safety of the facility’s occupants.

Ultimately, we want everyone to be able to walk in a facility without falling. We want all occupants to breathe in clean, non-harmful air. We do not want viruses or harmful bacteria on any surfaces. In the event of a fire in a facility, we want everyone to be able to exit safely and not inhale any harmful substances. We want the facility’s finish materials and furniture to be properly specified so they will not support combustion or flame. We do not want anyone in a noisy or distracting environment that could increase fatigue, stress, and mistakes. We want each person to be able to hear clearly, especially when medical issues are being discussed, so as to reduce errors. We want appropriate light levels for the task at hand. We want each person to be able to sit in a chair that is ergonomically adjustable and appropriate for the task being performed and one that properly supports the weight of its occupant.

While the requirements are complex, there are solutions in the design and specification process. With regulations evolving continually, the best place to start is to review the latest applicable codes, make informed decisions as a result of evidence-based design research, draw on previous experience and apply common sense.

Specifying the correct materials and/or finishes can:

• Reduce the number of slips and falls.

• Reduce staff fatigue.

• Enable better, clearer communication.

• Minimize noise and its impact on the stress level of patients and staff.

Specifying the proper materials, finishes, and furniture can:

• Improve the air quality.

• Diminish harmful bacteria and virus occurrence.

• Lessen the likelihood of a material igniting easily.

• Slow the spread of fire.

• Decrease the amount of smoke and toxic gas in the event of a fire.

Specifying the appropriate furniture and equipment can:

• Ensure the safe seating of its occupants.

• Decrease the likelihood of work-related injuries.

Designing with attention to detail and to the codes will:

• Allow for safe egress.

• Provide interior construction assemblies that have increased resistance to the spread of fire.

• Minimize opportunities for pathogen growth.

• Reduce Infections.

Specifying the appropriate lighting:

• Reduces eye fatigue.

• Reduces error.

• Lessens the glare on computer screens and equipment monitors.

Safer interiors are achievable when designers are equipped with relevant knowledge and experience.