When it comes to interior design for healthcare projects, a key consideration is maximising indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and, more specifically, how this can be optimised during design and build.
IEQ has several definitions, but they all centre around the same core consideration. It’s all about how the quality of the environment and the air inside a building impact on the occupants’ health and wellbeing.
It incorporates factors such as ventilation, temperature, humidity, thermal comfort, air quality, lighting quality (including daylight), and access to views.
IEQ and care facilities
These elements of interior design are particularly pertinent to care homes of all types – from residential independent living, to assisted living, to frail care facilities.
Here, it’s essential to prioritise the collective needs of residents and staff alike. Generally, people spend around 90% of their time indoors. The quality of the indoor air and environment can be adversely affected by various agents (physical, biological, and chemical) that ensue from building materials or occupant activities.
Indoor air, for example, can carry significantly more pollutants than the air outside. This can exacerbate respiratory illnesses like asthma and lead to eye and nasal irritation, as well as headaches and even fatigue.
Getting it right from the start
Mitigating any negative influence this may have on staff and residents’ health and wellbeing must start at the design stage and be meticulously managed throughout construction and beyond.
Getting interior design right leads to a vastly improved quality of life for all and is well worth any additional investment, should the need arise. But it can also be said that this balances against cost implications on consequent healthcare, so it’s worth factoring in early.
Putting theory into practice
To provide an example, CMS Architects were engaged as the Project Architects on Wadswick Green, a benchmark, multi-use retirement village in Wiltshire. In fulfilling the roles of Architect and Principal Designer for the project, we had the opportunity to incorporate various IEQ aspects into the design.
The project provided 221 assisted living units with associated central facilities that included a wellness centre, swimming pool, restaurant and bars, hairdressers, shop, and central management services. The scheme also provided further care facilities and a GP surgery, all set within an existing mature parkland setting.
With IEQ firmly in mind, here are some of the elements we integrated into our design:
- Natural materials, ambient lighting, and ventilation
- User controlled natural ventilation giving the ability to maintain and control personal comfort levels
- Mechanical ventilation for background air changes creating a healthy environment
- Natural aspects of landscaped gardens and wider views
- Ergonomic design of apartments to allow for ease of movement through interior space
- Increased sense of community with a ‘village’ concept allowing for social encounters and enhanced sensory variability
- Facilities and amenities for physical exercise and psychological restoration
- Large full height windows to allow for natural lighting within the apartments
IEQ should be considered in the design and build across all sectors. It’s been proven that enhanced environmental and air quality in offices, for example, significantly improves productivity and reduces sick days amongst staff.
IEQ is not only important in large-scale and commercial environments. Whilst the average Brit spends around 90% of their time indoors, over 60% of this time is spent at home, and since the Coronavirus pandemic around 40% of the UK population now work from home either on a full time or flexi-working basis. It is no surprise then that biophilic design is on the increase.
As one of the biggest design trends of 2023, biophilic design is used in the construction industry to connect users to the natural environment. It is the process of attempting to bring nature inside including the use of plants, fresh air, water and even sounds and scents.
House plants are not only aesthetically pleasing to look at, but they can also improve air quality by up to 75%, enhance mental health and well-being, and are shown to increase creativity and productivity. Plants can add a pop of colour and freshness to any room, as well as all of the benefits mentioned above. What’s not to love.
Here’s a snapshot of a residential project our interior designer Emily recently worked on, which just goes to show the impact that natural beauty can have on a space.
It is not just through the use of plants that we can introduce biophilic design into our homes, but also through colour choice. This year’s Dulux Colour of the Year is called ‘seeds of wonder’ – a phrase that encapsulates the transformative power of nature.
Introducing biophilic design into your home or working environment can help to create a calm, fresh and controlled space. It is not only a multi-sensory experience but also has many health benefits including improving our mental health and improving our IEQ.
If you have any thoughts on your current or planned premises, please get in touch. One of our team would be happy to discuss how we can help you realise your vision.