Healing the nation, one plant at a time

GroundscareFaced with the complex, long and costly process of the design and build of a health facility, planners may often consider gardens and indoor planting schemes as desirable but nonessential. However research suggests plants in healthcare may have a value beyond the aesthetics. Let’s look at the  benefits of a well thought out interior planting scheme as well as review successful cases.

The inclusion of gardens and planting schemes in health facilities has been around for many years, dating back even as far as the middle ages where monasteries created gardens to soothe the ill. The traditional view of hospitals and health facilities as perceived by patients is clinical, unwelcoming places which carry great stigma, a well thought through design combined with clever use of planting can provide a calming effect, pleasant nature and create a escape from more clinical settings.

A soothing effect
A study in 1984 by Roger S. Ulrich, Ph.D, Professor of Architecture at Texas A&M University, examined whether a view of vegetation had a direct effect on health and recovery from illness. Randomly placed patients who had a view of vegetation and plants had significantly reduced recovery times and also more positive notes in their records compared to those who simply had a view of a brick wall and no planting.

Creating a calming and less clinical environment in health facilities can also benefit a patient’s thoughts and feeling towards hospitals in general, creating a less daunting environment especially for children. Visiting a clinical, stressful environment can have an adverse effect on a child’s development and recovery, creating a fun, playful environment with plants could be a solution to this.

A planting scheme on the third floor of Evelina Children’s Hospital won a BALI National Landscape Award in 2009. It was installed by BALI Members Gavin Jones.

The Evelina Children’s hospital was opened in 2005 and is designed as a modern, fun space for children to be treated and recover. A crucial part of the design process was an extensive planting scheme to ensure children have access to views of nature in the hospital.

The architects Hopkins Architects of London wanted to create the perfect environment for children to recover so many children who were treated at Guy’s were consulted about the layout, design, colour schemes and themes for the interior of the hospital. It was decided the third floor would have the theme of ‘Beach’, and included in this was a planting scheme which involved the installation of five 1m x 1.2m brushed aluminium containers containing quad-stemmed Veitchia palms reaching 4.5m high in total. Each completed planter weighs in at 1.5 tonnes each; the planters have been placed on the grid line above the structural pillars to distribute the extra weight evenly.

The installation of the plants proved to be very testing process and careful planning by Gavin Jones Ltd was needed with each palm having to be craned up to the third floor with delicate manoeuvring. To dress the planters, the company decided to continue the hospitals fun and colourful theme and place light-weight hollow plastic balls, 50mm in diameter, on top of the compost. This was not only a great way to include some blasts of colour but also from a more practical view to prevent the children from digging in the soil. A protective layer was then put on top of the balls to stop the children removing them or throwing them around. The balls also allow the maintenance team to water the palms without any difficulty while providing an architectural finish to the project.

Benefits for staff and visitors
It is not only the patient’s recovery who may benefit from the introduction of planting schemes but also visitors, family and staff who can often find themselves in stressful, painful emotional situations at health establishments and feel the need for the calming effect or escapism of planting schemes and gardens. Great Ormond Street Hospital in London understood the value of a private garden for staff after two of its members of staff had been lost in the 7/7 bombings. The hospital wanted to create the opportunity for contemplation in recognition of the victims and also a space as an antidote to the hospital environment to improve the working experience for staff.

BALI Registered designer member Andy Sturgeon designed the roof garden on the seventh floor of the newly built Octav Botnar wing of the hospital. The design solution needed to be flexible and multi functional, with semi private areas for sitting and relaxing, socialising and eating, as well as having the ability to host large functions. The design solution created by Andy Sturgeon makes clever use of level changes and planting to create horizontal planes within the garden. These help define separate areas, whilst ensuring good circulation and easy access. The end result is an area where 3,000 hospital staff have access 365 days a year to an oasis of calm in there otherwise stressful day to day jobs.

For more information
For more information about garden and planting scheme design and installation in health establishments please contact the British Association of Landscape Industries www.bali.org.uk , contact@bali.org.uk 

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