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Biophilic
Hospital Room

Client

Hypothetical hospital open  to complimentary healing

Location

Troy, NY

Year

2019

Services

Human Centered Design
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For my senior design project, I was able to chose any problem I wanted to address, so long as I used socially responsible design to solve it. I chose to work on a passion project; the problem of the negative patient experience most people have at hospitals. I narrowed this problem down further to address the patient's room. The modern day hospital is cold in aesthetics, very specialized in pharmaceuticals, and not so patient friendly.  Taking a human-centered design approach, I conducted interviews, prototyped solutions, held user testing, did lots of research, carried out surveys, and received feedback from my peers. All of this resulted in the design of a new inpatient room using the principles of biophilic design. This design is not only aesthetically pleasing for the patient, but the design inherently helps the patient to heal more quickly (based on a study done comparing the use of biophilic design verses without it).

Process

For this project I used a very iterative design process called the GADIE process. GADIE stands for goals, analysis, design, implementation, and evaluation. This process is very vague and flexible, allowing me to customize it how I see fit, while still acting as a guideline. Although this website is presented linearly, each milestone I talk about (i.e. choosing a project focus, user research, prototyping, etc.) fits into the GADIE process. As you'll notice, sometimes I follow the GADIE order, and sometimes I skip steps, or go back a couple steps. I'll explain as I go, the choices I made and why. It's important to note that in order to make my process easier to follow, I grouped all of my research into one section although it occurred at different stages. To see my full process in the order it was done, I've included a graphic at the bottom of this page.

g.a.d.i.e.

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Goals: Choosing a Focus

I took part in an in-class exercised that helped me start to define my goals for this Capstone project. This exercise that made me think about myself, my passions, skills I have or want to develop, and what I think the world needs right now. Next, I had to look at what I had written down and choose a topic to continue with. I continued with sustainability and the medical system. I thought about how the local community interacts with sustainability and the medical system.  I came up with ideas for problems to explore on campus, in Troy (where I went to school), and on a global scale. I got a chance to talk to my class and professor about my ideas and in return I got feedback, connections, and resources to check out.

focus and stakeholders

This is a page from my notebook showing my thoughts during an in class exercise to determine a project focus and identify potential stakeholders.

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Analysis: Identifying Potential Stakeholders

The bottom half of my notebook page (pictured above) was dedicated to the next step of our exercise: identifying potential stakeholders for the topics we found interesting. In my notebook they are listed under the community and larger systems headings. I had chosen to focus on sustainability and the medical system, two things I am passionate about. Some stakeholders in the community I identified included doctors, nurses, and patients. I thought about other organizations that may have an interest in the intersection of sustainability and the medical field. I thought of the Living Building Challenge, Architects, and a masters program offered through my college, called Built Ecologies. 

Analysis: Primary Research

Ethnography

Throughout my four years as a design student, I drove home once a month to go to my local hospital for medical treatment. During my time in the hospital I noticed that the only thing I liked about the hospital, was the people. A hospital is supposed to be a place you go to get better, however, not one person I spoke to liked going there. This made no sense to me; why would you not like going someplace that's purpose is to make you feel better? I realize this is a loaded question with many different answers, so I looked a little closer.

Through observing the nurses every month, I noticed how they always tried to decorate and make the room feel more comfortable. They tended to complain about the color of the wall or the print on the curtains. Most of all they complained about how little room the caregivers of the patient had. Not only did that make a bad experience for the guests, but for the nurses as well since they had to squeeze into tight spaces to get near the patient. The lack of privacy also bothered them since this particular room was laid out so the patients faced one another.

background info

Online Research

After deciding to pursue a project I am passionate about, I went to the internet to see just how big this problem was. I found people all over the world were trying to come up with solutions. A handful of hospitals have been implementing different methods to improve the patient experience. Some methods included using technology to engage the patients, others included creating more privacy and comfort for the patient, and some focused on implementing complimentary forms of medicine, like acupuncture. 

I also looked to other industries that are focused on user experience in a space, like hotels and spas. I honed in on aspects that would be beneficial to patients, like creating a relaxing atmosphere through various design techniques. A prominent technique that I saw over and over again throughout my research in the highest rated spas and hotels was biophilic design.

interactive tech

The video above shows the interactive media wall that researchers at UCONN created for Boston Children's Hospital with the goal of creating a more positive experience for patients and their families.

What is Biophilic Design?

Before we go any further it's important to know what biophilic design is. There are tons of studies on the health benefits of spending time in nature, however, now humans are spending most of their time indoors and are not getting these benefits. In fact, being indoors may even be negatively impacting people. Biophilic design aims to fix that.

This design theory is based on the idea that humans have an innate love of nature because we have been intertwined with nature for most of our species' existence. It has served as our home and place of refuge for hundreds of thousands of years (for the modern human). Biophilic design uses patterns found in nature and brings them indoors to give humans some of the health benefits nature provides, including decreasing stress.​

amazon spheres

One of the most high profile examples of biophilic design is Amazon's Seattle Headquarters, the Spheres. Scroll through the pictures to see the different ways they've implemented biophilic design to increase work productivity, efficiency, creativity and overall well-being of the workers. All photographs are by Alex Garland.