Headlines: March 17th, 2005

The design of new hospitals does not take enough account of the buildings look and feel and how they affect the towns in which they are built, according to a report today. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment says poor design and location of hospitals could condemn future generations of people to using facilities that do not reach their potential.The warning comes in “Design Reviewed 2”, CABE’s annual report, which looks at the most noteworthy projects examined by its Design Review Panel. The panel finds that the majority of hospitals that members looked at were not adequately informed by a study of the cities in which they were being built.

It finds that the demands of the clinical brief for the buildings tend to outweigh considerations about how hospitals look and feel on the inside and how they might affect the towns or cities in which they are built and their people, all to the detriment of the finished building.

Les Sparks, who chairs the Design Review Panel, believes an essential part of the brief for any healthcare building should be to create a healing environment that benefits patients, staff and visitors. For example, he says, research has shown that daylight and views are beneficial to patient recovery and staff recruitment and retention. The Design Review Panel also has to look at how a hospital will contribute to its setting within a town or city and how it will interact with people there.

CABE has advised on a number of large-scale hospital schemes in that last year, including the new PFI hospital in Edgbaston. It says it has been encouraged by the way many of its criticisms of the original design for the Royal London Hospital have been addressed but believes the project is still an example of how an inflexible clinical brief restricts the emphasis that can be placed on access, daylight and views.

Les Sparks said, “CABE’s Design Review programme is asked to comment on more than 500 schemes of all kinds every year and it is very useful to take a step back at the end of the year and look at the state of building and design in the country across different sectors.”