Visiting a hospital can be a stressful experience, so when the British Columbia Ministry of Health was designing the Surrey Memorial Hospital expansion, the architects were asked to come up with a warm, natural facility that would also meet rigorous building performance demands.
To achieve these ends, the design used wood in structural and decorative components. The lobby features exposed wood and provides a sense of calm for all in a stressful environment. Wood use throughout the public areas of the hospital expansion reinforces the connection to nature, helping to reduce stress and anxiety for both visitors and patients.
A Comfortable, Healing Environment
The hospital’s new lobby features exposed structural timbers, panelling, and millwork, creating the impression the ceiling is being held up by trees. Wood provides a tangible connection to nature and the outdoors, and offers an aesthetic appeal unmatched by other building materials. Research by the University of British Columbia and FPInnovations found wood interiors reduce stress by creating a comforting, supportive and healing environment.
Wood Finishes: Healthy And Healing
Wood products and finishes used for the millwork, interior walls and acoustic paneling in the hospital help to control air-borne contaminants because they are easy to maintain, dust-free after installation, and emit few, if any, harmful vapours.
Modern Wood Products: Efficient And Effective
Surrey Memorial’s roof was made with prefabricated panels designed to achieve long spans with minimum connections. Wood was used for exterior soffits and, in composite form, for some of the cladding and exterior walls.
Natural Choice, Clear Benefits
Surrey Memorial used wood for canopies and cladding because it responds well to rigorous maintenance procedures, resists weather and UV damage, and looks fantastic. Wood is a natural choice for sustainable building construction; wood-based building designs have a lower energy and carbon footprint.
“The use of exposed wood in a project is one of the ways that we can improve conditions for our patients. Wood conveys a sense of warmth and comfort that supports the healing environment and improves the overall patient experience.”Capital ProjectsReal Estate & Facilties, Fraser Health Providence Health Care
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An increasing number of health-care facilities are incorporating wood to provide patients and visitors with a warm, natural aesthetic, and a calm, stress-reducing connection to nature.
Research begins to show the biophilic benefits of wood, which suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature. Study results show students who spent time in rooms featuring natural wood exhibited lower stress reactivity. During all three periods of the study, stress, as measured by sympathetic nervous system activation, was measurably lower on average in the rooms featuring wood than in the non-wood office.
The bold, striking use of wood throughout the space — uncommon in such health-care settings— softens the hospital’s institutional feel and creates a calm, stress-reducing connection to nature, while standing up to weather, wear and tear, and rigorous maintenance. As the research on biophilic benefits of wood continues to grow, one of B.C.’s busiest hospitals leads the way in offering patients a comforting, supportive, and healing environment.
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