Green roofs and green walls have been shown to play a monumental role in the well-being of patients in healthcare facilities, connecting people with nature, which allows patients to relate to natural systems and decreases the stress they feel.
Gail Vittori, co-director of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, says there is a growing body of evidence that correlates positive patient outcomes with healthcare facilities.
She notes that providing patients with a view of nature can can actually reduce the amount of time they spend in healthcare facilities and even lower their medication needs.
“Similarly, providing windows in nurse’s break rooms has been found to reduce medical error,” she adds.
“Healthcare’s measure of success should be promoting health and wellness rather than treating disease.”
Living architecture can greatly assist in the shift towards this mentality.
Views of nature are not always possible in hospital settings, which are typically in dense urban areas. This is where a green wall or green roof can act as a natural element to assist healing.
Robert Ulrich of Texas A&M University conducted research published in Facility Care magazine comparing the recovery time of patients with a window view of green space to those with that of a brick wall.
He found that patients with a view of green space used less pain medication, had fewer post-surgical complications and left the hospital nine per cent quicker than the group with a view of a brick wall.
Besides mentally benefiting patients, living walls and roofs also filter the air and improve air quality and have economic benefits.
Aesthetically, they provide visual relief from what are often drab hospital environments. There is no doubt that a patient gazing out from a recovery room onto a green roof will feel much more relaxed and at ease than viewing a stark cement roof with no signs of life.
Economically, living architecture can greatly contribute to savings on energy bills. Hospitals are very energy-intensive, with a study by the Commonwealth Fund showing that energy costs are usually two per cent of the hospital’s operating budget. American hospitals spend more than $10 billion each year on energy.
Green roofs and walls can significantly reduce rooftop temperatures and results in savings on energy. Green roofs are becoming more popular in healthcare facilities as several organisations seek LEED certification.
The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne opened in late 2011 with an extensive green roof and green space areas with a dozen themed gardens across the four-hectare space.
The various gardens cover a total of 360 square metres of semi-extensive green roof space with a deep layer of soil to accommodate larger plants and trees.
The well-being of patients is also aided by the noise and sound insulation provided by living architecture. Healthcare facilities can be rife with unpleasant noises, but soil, plants and trees within the green roof system act as an insulation barrier to sound, absorbing or deflecting noise.