Designer Forum - December 2011
By Alison Faecher
Interior design can have a big impact in healthcare environments; it can differentiate a facility from its competitors and reinforce a brand. Over the past decade, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, which is located in Newton, Massachusetts, has embarked on several expansion and improvement projects, including an emergency department addition, a new cancer center and an inpatient unit.
Most recently, the hospital turned to TRO Jung|Brannen to re-imagine its East and West Lobby spaces and align these spaces with previous campus renovations. In choosing flooring for the lobbies, TRO Jung|Brannen specified products that assisted with wayfinding, provided a safe environment for the patients, and would be easy to deal with maintenance-wise. The culmination of these additions and improvements has resulted in a set of interior design standards that reinforce the hospital’s brand as a preferred community hospital.
Hospitality-based healthcare environments are becoming the standard for successful healthcare facilities. Patients and visitors have come to expect a number of amenities such as Wi-Fi availability and coffee shops, calming distractions such as art installations and interior gardens, and a variety of comfortable seating choices in waiting areas. Community hospitals in particular rely on these amenities to enable them to remain competitive with larger teaching hospitals in urban centers.
The goals for the hospital’s West Lobby were to rebrand the entry point, include a vehicle to communicate the hospital’s mission statement, and recognize and thank the supporters of the hospital in a meaningful way. The mission statement is showcased with copper lettering mounted on azure backlit glass with a glass and stone mosaic accent. An awards program was developed to recognize staff excellence, and backlit cast glass artwork documents historic trees on the campus—linking the improvements to Newton-Wellesley’s origin as a cottage hospital established on the campus in 1880.
Renovations to the East Lobby were less extensive than the West and were focused on providing patients and visitors with choices and amenities to enhance their experience. Since the East Lobby serves as the surgical center waiting area, the team incorporated a variety of seating options, including high-back chairs and ottomans, to create a series of living rooms or family cluster areas—designed to respond to longer stays associated with waiting for a loved one in surgery. The lobby also includes an Internet café area, patient-education workstations and a dining area.
One of the key components for the lobby renovations included implementing a wayfinding system, supported by a strong graphics program to provide patients with clear cues. Phase one of the wayfinding system identified key entry points for the campus and buildings. The lobby renovations integrated the second phase where wayfinding was continued into the first floor of the hospital.
Signage was just one component of the wayfinding program that also included the integration of flooring, lighting, architectural elements, artwork, colors and finishes in a meaningful composition to keep patients and visitors on the right path. Flooring typically plays a role in wayfinding with a color change or sometimes with a more subtle textural change at intersections and entrances. In the lobbies, we utilized quartz and glass accent tiles that were deeper in color and rich in texture. The lobbies and public circulation now provide a visual connection to recently completed construction projects through use of a complex neutral palette, a color-symbol wayfinding system, and lighting changes at key entry and greeting points.
The repositioning of the lobby spaces provided an opportunity to create interior design standards, based on the neutral palette that had been implemented during additions and renovations over the past decade. The standards will support future projects at the hospital and will contribute to a consistent appearance and streamlined maintenance.
Flooring selection was a critical piece of the design standards as it requires a long-term commitment by the hospital and affects all interior spaces. Healthcare environments demand flooring that is functional, safe, easy to maintain, and long-lasting. The appropriate flooring application should respond to the specific needs of the interior space. Materials such as pavers and quartz tiles are higher end products that do require an up front investment, but pay back in terms of their longevity and ease of maintenance. Since they are going to be in place for a long time, we try to select from a neutral palette for these items.
Porcelain pavers by Refin and Atlas Concorde and quartz tile and glass mosaics from Trend were selected in heavy traffic areas of the hospital, such as the public lobby and transition zones, because of their durability. Hard surfaces that are easily maintained and resilient are critical in the Northeast due to the accumulation of water, slush and mud resulting from stormy weather. Soft carpet surfaces in a simple ashlar and brick installation were selected for waiting and administrative zones. The carpet provides acoustic privacy and comfort underfoot, and is a solution dyed fiber, which endures exposure to sun and cleaning.
In healthcare environments, patient safety is a top priority when making design selections. Improper flooring can be a potential hazard to patients who are unsteady on their feet. As a result, slip resistance standards for healthcare flooring installations frequently exceed ADA requirements. This is particularly important in the Northeast where flooring at entry points frequently gets wet. Additionally, color transitions with sharp contrast should be avoided, as they can be confusing to patients who are visually impaired, suffering from dementia or are medicated. Flush transitions are preferred to minimize tripping on uneven surfaces. At Newton-Wellesley, neutral colors with subtle patterns were selected to assist with wayfinding and add elegance to the space without making a bold or overwhelming statement.
Ease of maintenance is directly correlated to the functionality and performance of a flooring selection and is a substantial factor when making recommendations to our clients. Materials have an associated cost per square foot to maintain that will have to be covered by the client in future years. We are discovering that healthcare clients are opting for a more modular approach to flooring materials, as opposed to roll products that can reduce flexibility and impair replacement. Modular systems such as InterfaceFlor carpet tile used at Newton-Wellesley allow for replacement of small areas when damage occurs. Also, these modular systems are packaged in boxes, as opposed to rolls, allowing them to be stored more conveniently.
TROJB practiced responsible design throughout the improvements at Newton-Wellesley Hospital by selecting appropriate tones and colors palettes to complement adjacent spaces. Taupes and warm hues were selected for the flooring to match the hospital’s standard color palette and because of their timeless relevance. Accents, such as jewel-toned quartz tile, glass and stone mosaics, were added to enrich the neutral palette. Bright pops of color were pulled into the project on changeable elements such as furnishings, vertical surfaces and artwork.
The East and West Lobby renovations are the most recent in a series of projects TRO Jung|Brannen has completed for Newton-Wellesley Hospital. A decade of additions and improvements has enhanced the patient experience at the hospital, and upgrades to the East Lobby in particular have resulted in significantly improved Press Ganey patient satisfaction scores.
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