Shining a light on brighter healthcare facilities

Exploring how daylight has been shown to have a beneficial effect on long-term care, reducing the need for pain relief and relieving anxiety and depression

Tree Tops Village in Newcastle uses rooflights to maximise daylight into the interiors

Scott Leeder, commercial director at VELUX Modular Skylights, looks at the benefits of increasing the levels of natural daylight and ventilation in healthcare facilities

A great deal of research carried out over the years provides compelling evidence to show that access to natural daylight and ventilation has a beneficial effect on the healing process and the health of patients and people in long-term care.

A study by Choi et al - published in 2012 - for example, found that; ‘a significant relationship appears to exist between indoor daylight environments and a patient’s average length of stay (ALOS) in a hospital’.

It adds: “25% of the comparison sets showed that, in the brighter orientations, as in rooms located in the SE (South East) area, the ALOS by patients was shorter than that in the NW (North West) area by 16%-41%.

Clinical research shows that high levels of natural light can help correct the rest/activity cycles of ADRD patients by rebalancing the circadian rhythm in both the home and care setting

“Further, no dataset showed a shorter patient ALOS in the NW area than in the SE.”

The report went on to show that ‘high illuminance in the morning seemed to be more beneficial than in the afternoon’.

Another report carried out by Elizabeth Brawley found that the care environment strongly influences the behaviour and quality of life of individuals with Alzheimer's disease and dementia as well as those affected by age-related change.

In her report, Designing for Alzheimer's Disease, Brawley shows that physical surroundings are effective in preventing and dealing with the loss of function-vision, hearing, mobility, social behaviour and mental competence.

For instance, sleep disturbances are one of the more-common symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and related dementia (ADRD).

It is common for some ADRD patients to spend a third or more of the time at night awake, which results in an increased risk of falls and injury.

Clinical research shows that high levels of natural light can help correct the rest/activity cycles of ADRD patients by rebalancing the circadian rhythm in both the home and care setting.

It is, therefore, extremely important that when developing a healthcare facility, architects consider how they can be designed to incorporate optimum levels of natural daylight to support a healthier and more comfortable environment for patients.

Research has shown that natural daylight and ventilation have a beneficial effect on the healing process and the health of patients and people in long-term care

Example of best practice

Tree Top Village in Newcastle is a great example of a care facility that has utilised rooflights to maximise the level of natural daylight. The award-winning ‘village’, designed by ID Partnership, is the first of its kind in the UK and is focused on delaying the onset of dementia.

The village provides 111 high-quality affordable units exclusively for the over-55s or people with an assessed medical need. It also includes four retail units, a multi-purpose room for GPs and other medical professional, and a reminiscence museum containing familiar household and consumer objects. The museum is used to help trigger memories for dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers.

High levels of natural daylight are achieved by the central four-storey atrium which includes 60 VELUX modular ridgelights. Complementing this are 10 VELUX modular longlights that provide additional illumination in areas away from the atrium. All of the rooflights were installed by Glazing Systems & Installations.

is extremely important that when developing a healthcare facility, architects consider how they can be designed to incorporate optimum levels of natural daylight to support a healthier and more comfortable environment for patients

With the design of healthcare facilities having an impact on a patient’s healing time and quality of life, particularly with those living in long-term care, the benefits of natural daylight far outweigh those of electrical lighting.

A growing number of architects are specifying a system that offers all the offsite benefits of being fully prefabricated in a factory-controlled environment ensures that they fit right, first time, every time on site - and can be up to three times faster than a traditional installation.

The modules can be fitted together in minutes, minimising time spent on the roof and ensuring a watertight seal is achieved quickly, so rain won’t hold up the installation. This is vital for healthcare facilities, where time and budget constraints can put strain on schedulers and builders alike.

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