Architects, interior designers, and healthcare institutions claim to have created a healing environment, however, they rarely investigate deeply into the needs of the users in order to fully understand how the environment may impact them.
The design process has become increasingly complex and requires more and more attention to coordinating the consultants and specialists involved. With so many stakeholders in a design process, the attention paid to the true stakeholders, the users of the building, often flags, resulting in environments that do not ‘fit’ well. This fit can be significantly improved by involving Environmental Psychologists in the design process. Their role is to simply focus on the specific needs and wishes of the various users, to bring this information to the design table during the different stages of the design, and to explain the value of the specific design-behavior relationships to the designers and the client-team.
For instance, how can the environment contribute to the efficiency and productivity of staff? How can a hospital lower stress and increase well-being of patients? How can the learning ability of children in schools be improved? How can we enhance safety in parks and lower crime in cities? Answers to these questions can help clients define strategic objectives and design goals: the vision and guiding principles of a design. These strategic objectives (e.g. lower crime, increase patient safety, increase staff satisfaction) help guide the design process by giving direction when tough decisions need to be made.
A true Healing Environment is an environment that reflects the needs and wishes of all future users. A building can enhance or diminish users’ efficiency, well-being and satisfaction. It pays off to really dig in. The attention, time, and devotion spent early in the design process will result in a building that actually ‘fits’; a place where people flourish. So why not do it right the first time?!