Challenges and Opportunity in Vertical Hospital Design

Vertical Hospital Design
Figure 1a: Barnes Jewish Hospital, St. Louis, MO (Courtesy of Washington University School of Medicine, wustl.edu)

Vertical healthcare design is an emerging field with its own particular set of benefits and challenges. This building type will become more desirable and popular for reasons including the location of healthcare facilities in urban centers, escalating land values the demand for reimbursable healthcare services, but also because of numerous, little-explored advantages that the high-rise building type offers to providing healthcare services. These advantages can include planning flexibility, security, efficiency as well as improved air quality and reduced noise which can benefit healing.

However, these vertical healthcare buildings with their populations of caregivers and the vulnerable require special sensitivity to the challenging aspects in healthcare design—noise/vibration control, air quality, temperature and airflow, vertical transportation, planning and life safety and security among them.

It's clear that the high-rise healthcare is due for more detailed study and investigation.
Douglas King, AIA, NCARB, CSI, ACHA, Stantec Inc. Chicago, IL, USA, Member Chicago Committee on High Rise Buildings, National Fire Protection Association, American Society of Healthcare Engineers, American Institute of Architects – American College of Healthcare Architects

Healthcare Grows Up

Where healthcare lives
Urban medical centers are typically located on the edge of downtown in many urban areas. In the past, these medical centers were proximate to the city center but rarely in the middle of downtown, where land would be prohibitively expensive. Healthcare campus settings typically grew horizontally as healthcare organizations focused on maximizing outpatient service. Additional buildings were often connected by bridges and tunnels.

As cities grew in more recent decades, many medical centers found themselves surrounded by dense urban development. Land became increasingly expensive and medical centers found it expensive or impossible to expand by acquiring nearby lots. Some became "landlocked." (Figure 1a, b)

NBM&CW November 2016

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