Environmental challenges in vertical healthcare design
The design of a vertical healthcare environment presents a number of interesting challenges related to acoustics, vibration, air quality, and the microclimate. While the impact of acoustics and indoor environmental quality on patients and staff has received a great deal of attention over the past 10 years, and are now commonly accepted design considerations, designs that consider the effects of wind and the microclimate are perhaps less common. However, these elements can be equally important to the quality of healthcare delivery at many sites. Indeed, for a high-rise hospital located in a dense urban setting, the effects of wind and climate can be amplified compared to more open rural settings.
Three Key Influencers
The impact and significance of each environmental factor can be determined by what we refer to as the three key influencers: the urban setting, the condensed footprint and the building height.
- The urban setting: the desire to build vertical is often a result of land availability and cost, which places the high-rise hospital in a dense urban environment. The facility is situated in the core, surrounded by busy streetscapes, close neighbors and mixed demographics.
- The condensed footprint: the urban site constrains the facility to a small footprint compared to the vast expanse of the many health campuses of the world. This produces less forgiving and less flexible stacking as the pieces of the puzzle are fit to the available square footage.
- The building height: forcing the program skyward introduces challenges and opportunities. These relate to structure, mechanical systems and the effects of wind and climate at higher elevations.
The roles of these influences on a project are site-specific, and must be managed holistically to effectively address the often competing requirements that arise among the various environmental issues.
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