Impactful Design: The Importance of Outdoor Spaces in Healthcare and Senior Living Facilities

3 min read

Building architecture and interior design are crucial to the overall functionality of healthcare and senior living facilities and the comfort of those who occupy them. The exterior site design of these facilities should be carefully and equally considered, as well. Now more than ever, providing adequate outdoor space is essential. Whether it is patients, visitors, healthcare providers, owners, maintenance staff, emergency vehicles and first responders, local municipality and utility providers, delivery drivers, or suppliers, outdoor spaces can significantly impact a user’s experience. As we have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor spaces provide safer ways to interact with others, as well as physical and mental health benefits.

It has been proven that healing gardens, courtyards, and outdoor therapeutic spaces can improve the patient and visitor experiences at healthcare and senior living facilities. Additionally, simple things like an intuitive site circulation plan and wayfinding programs can be helpful to ease the stress of navigating through a facility. Patients and visitors may be experiencing stressful health-related situations, so it is important to ensure the site planning and design do not add any additional stress. Analyzing each aspect of a site layout is crucial when completing both site engineering and landscape architectural design. Collaborating with architects, owners, and user groups, as well as local first responders, must happen to ensure everyone’s views and concerns are considered. Additional items to consider for the design of healthcare campuses include:

  • Specific entry areas for assisted living transports
  • Screening between emergency entrances and general visitor parking areas
  • Providing covered walkways between parking decks and building entrances

Pedestrian connections to community pathway networks can provide non-motorized transportation connections between a healthcare campus and the surrounding neighborhoods and service districts.

Regardless of whether or not patients may be able to go outside at these facilities, providing visually appealing landscape views outside of patient windows can positively impact patients’ recovery and overall mental health. Landscape architects should work with architects and owners on planned window locations and incorporate plantings and other landscape features to be visible from patient windows.

Site location, building placement, and orientation can also impact a facility’s overall appeal and functionality. Adjusting the site layout or building orientation can help improve unfavorable situations, such as a site located next to an expressway that would experience both negative visibility and sound impacts. Additionally, buffers such as sound walls, berms, and landscape screening can be incorporated to help resolve these issues.