Designing Healing Environments

Tarkett Australia Pty Ltd
Friday, 01 October, 2021

What makes a good healing environment?

Studies show that a hospital’s environment can play a significant role in enhancing patient’s experience, accelerating recovery and promoting wellbeing.

A well designed environment also delivers economic benefits through cost savings related to improving patient outcomes and reducing their length of stay, boosting staff productivity and attracting and retaining talent. Healing design elements that can help to strengthen patient’s ability to cope and recover include:

  • Links with nature
  • People-friendly spaces with a welcoming feel
  • A calm environment free from excessive noise
  • Strong infection control
  • Good acoustics

Ensuring patient comfort

A healthy, people-friendly indoor environment can contribute to a positive patient experience and a more rapid recovery. Natural light, views of nature, art, quiet and clean patient rooms are all part of what the experts call the ‘healing environment’.

Creating a quieter environment: Noise can be a highly negative environmental factor in hospitals. Studies show that it can increase patients’ perception of pain and their consequent use of medication, and result in sleep deprivation and patient confusion. It may even increase the length of their hospital stay. From a design perspective, it is important to pay particular attention to corridors serving patients rooms and intensive care units.

Our recommendation: 

  • Choose flexible flooring over tiling. Ceramic tiles reflect sound to add to the general noise, whereas flexible flooring absorbs sound, keeping it at a comfortable level.
  • Identify optimal acoustic solutions for rooms with high noise levels, while ensuring easy movement of medical beds.

Reducing the institutional feeling: In patient rooms as well as in large spaces and common areas, it is important to avoid the institutional feeling of the ‘clinical environment’, which can lead to stress and anxiety. Patients should not feel a sense of stigma linked to their stay in hospital.

Our recommendation:

  • An appropriate use of colours, designs, textures will help to create a warm, stimulating and reassuring environment.
  • Select durable, easy-to-maintain flooring, as cleanliness and infection control is important.
  • Add wall protection to ensure the environment does not look damaged over time.

Encouraging mobility

Patient mobility in an ageing population is crucial to the recovery process. Studies show, that an early return to mobility can improve patient outcomes and decrease the length of their stay in hospital.

Designing supportive environments that increase spatial perception and enhance cognitive function can play a vital rolepart in helping patients to find their way and improving their overall experience. It will be increasingly important to address these issues in a considered and sensitive way, as healthcare facilities support a growing number of elderly people with sight loss or dementia.

Enhancing visual comfort: With elderly people forming a significant and growing group of the hospital population, it is vital to consider the experience of people with sight loss when designing a healthcare facility. Colour contrast is central to providing visual clues for doors, handles, controls and furniture, enabling people with diminished sight to better make sense of their surroundings.

Our recommendation:

  • Ensure at least a 30-point Light Reflectant Value (LRV) difference between adjacent critical surfaces such as flooring and walls, flooring and furniture, and wall and handrail.
  • Do not exceed a 10-point LRV differential between two adjacent floor surfaces, in order to avoid the illusion of a step.
  • Use flooring with a matt finish to prevent glare.

Helping patients find their way: Developing design strategies to help patients and their families find their way in complex healthcare settings can help to alleviate stress, both among patients and their families. In addition, it helps the hospital to function more effectively, and promotes visitor accessibility and safety.

Our recommendation:

  • Choose flooring colours to create colour coding to help identify and differentiate key spaces.
  • Patient friendly signage is crucial. Effective signage should be recognisable, concise and clearly visible to all. Floor customisation can be used for signage.

Using light reflectant value and colour contrast effectively in design

Harnessing the light reflectant value (LRV) efficiently helps to quantify the visible and usable light reflected by surfaces illuminated by a light source on a scale from 0 to 100, where 0 absorbs light completely (black) and 100 reflects light perfectly (white). When designing for people with sight loss, it is important to take the LRV of large surfaces such as the floor, walls and ceiling into account, creating an optimum contrast that will help people to see their surroundings more clearly.

Helping to reduce the risk of healthcare associated infections

Managing and preventing the spread of infection is a major challenge for all Healthcare facilities. In fact, infections associated with healthcare or developed within healthcare settings are rated as the most frequent adverse outcome in healthcare delivery worldwide. Therefore, it is vital to evaluate the level of risk posed by diverse areas of a healthcare facility, and reduce the risk of infection through optimal design choices.

Choosing “Easy to Clean” materials: Infections are largely transmitted through the air, human contact and medical equipment. Even though the physical environment is not a primary source of contamination, a good choice of materials can help to control infection more efficiently.

Our recommendation:

  • Opt for sheets of vinyl flooring, joined by hot welding rods.
  • To ensure efficient cleaning and high hygienic standards in areas where there is a high risk of infection, flooring and walls must be: 
    • Sealed, smooth, with an impervious surface and minimal joints
    • Perfectly watertight
    • Compatible with cleaning chemicals and frequent disinfection procedures

Opting for low emitting products: Indoor air contains millions of pollutant particles, from fine dust to microbes, which can lead to the spreading of infection. HVAC plays an important role. Similarly, the choice of materials and surfaces in clean rooms also matters in terms of reducing the number of airborne particles.

Our recommendation:

  • Choose floors manufactured with low VOC levels.
  • For critical areas such as operating theatres, seek floor and wall coverings certified by a third party.

Caring for caregivers

Working in healthcare facilities is both mentally and physically demanding. A positive working environment can help reduce stress and fatigue. In particular, selecting appropriate flooring can help to perform physical tasks — such as rolling beds, trolleys and heavy rolling loads — more easily.

Meeting slip resistance standards requirements for flooring in wet areas

A pedestrian surface is considered to be slip resistant if the available surface friction is sufficient to enable a person to traverse that surface without an unreasonable risk of slipping

iQ vinyl floors — “Intelligent Quality” that ticks all the boxes

iQ stands for “Intelligent Quality” and is Tarkett’s well-known homogeneous vinyl flooring for public spaces. The iQ range has solutions for all sorts of public environments and can be combined with special flooring in acoustic, wet room and non-slip vinyl floorings and floors with static dissipative properties. It is of the highest quality and has many functional benefits such as durability, stain resistance and high flexibility that makes the floor easy to install — without sacrificing design. Thanks to their extreme versatility, iQ floors can accommodate a wide variety of applications and can be installed on floors, walls — and even furniture.

To find out more about the iQ Range and our other hospital related products, please visit

Image courtesy of Tarkett.

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