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The Future of Hospital Architecture & Its Impact

Hospital Architecture and Design Matters, Read More to Find Out Why

Reading Time: 3 min.

Allan Turner | 19 September, 2023

Hospitals Have Their Eyes on the Future: Do Healthcare Architects?

The hospitals of decades past were built primarily for functionality and little else. The idea was to deliver care in the most expeditious and economical manner. Patients were shuttled from one place to another with little forethought as to how disruption might impact their emotional wellbeing. Separate wings and buildings created a siloed approach to care, with little to no connectivity with each other.

Hospital staff using computer in black and white

But that was yesterday. Hospital design is changing, and rapidly.

Part of the change has been driven by the pandemic, but not all of it. Architectural design for healthcare institutions includes many considerations. Hospitals are now taking into consideration, among other things, new models of patient care and the greater focus on the well-being of healthcare clinicians and professionals.

According to a report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), hospitals are beginning to understand the need to replace inefficient and stress-inducing healthcare settings from both a technical-structural and operational point of view. It also emphasizes the importance of integration with the community, especially as it pertains to natural and social environments. 

This is a tall order for hospital architects who are now expected to achieve multiple and diverse objectives with creative designs that support emerging trends, all with an eye towards the future

Here is where we’re seeing the greatest impact of change on hospital design:

1. Wellness. There are several components of hospital design geared towards supporting wellness for patients as well as visitors and staff. The goal of these human-centered designs is to support both the physical and emotional well-being of everyone in the hospital.

  • Hospital buildings are being designed to bring in more natural light than ever before, including pre- and post-op rooms. 

  • More outdoor areas are being included in the design of healthcare institutions, such as rooftop lounges with gardens to provide areas for visitors and employees to relax. 

  • Conveniently located “retreat” rooms are being added to architectural plans for hospital construction projects to allow staff to quickly take a break and recharge. 


2. Flexibility. Greater flexibility helps future-proof hospitals for a range of potential unforeseen events or natural disasters. Thus, hospital designs are increasingly built for flexibility of use. Examples include:

  • Hospital rooms are being designed to double as meeting rooms, staff gathering places, and even kitchens. 

  • Increased use of partitions to instantly alter a space to provide immediate privacy for hospital patient care.

  • Relocatable walls are being made available to quickly protect against a sudden health hazard, pandemic, or outbreak. 


3. Inclusivity. Hospitals are recognizing the diversity of patients and beginning to design in ways that support their various needs. Healthcare architects are using what is referred to as “person centered principles” as a backbone to design. Here are some ways that hospital designs are being revised: 

  • Turning to resources such as the FDI’s Residential Guidelines, which focuses on aging patients, hospital architects are rethinking design elements as they relate to the four “core comforts”: lighting, acoustic, mobility and acoustic. 

  • Providing for neurodiverse patients. According to studies cited in Health Care Design Magazine, this can range from attention deficit disorder to autism spectrum disorder.

  • Designing hospital waiting rooms with seating niches to reduce anxiety among patients, especially children with special needs and the elderly. 


4. Efficiency. Hospital architectural improvements are emerging to better serve nurses and clinicians. In addition to open core layouts, other improvements include 

  • Connecting nurse stations within healthcare facilities to increase access efficiency.

  • More strategic location of supply stations to facilitate access.

  • Faster transmission of sensitive materials, such as pneumatic tube systems. 


5. Safety. Preparing for future issues ranging from handling of sensitive materials to another pandemic to a natural disaster. According to the World Health Organization's (WHO) Hospitals of the Future report, hospital buildings are being designed to include:

  • More evacuation areas that are easily accessible in the event of an emergency within the healthcare institution.

  • Back-up spaces that can be repurposed to care for patient care when primary care spaces are compromised.

  • Architectural re-designs of hospital departments, wings or towers to ensure seismic isolation systems meet current standards.


6. Sustainability. Hospital designs are increasingly aimed towards supporting green initiatives by optimizing the use of natural resources and reducing the carbon footprint. We are now hearing of “green hospitals” which are energy efficient and eco-friendly. They include:

  • Increased use of solar panels to power the healthcare institutions and decrease reliance on electricity and provide stronger backup systems.

  • Architectural re-structuring to optimize water usage.

  • Greater efficiency of handling waste materials to reduce toxic emissions that come from hospitals.

black and white photo of small reception area in hospital
Alfred Hospital, Melbourne VIC, Australia 


Hospital architects and contractors must lean into these trends by forging a closer collaboration with thought leaders as well as those who work inside hospitals every day. That is necessary to help ensure that their architectural designs support the rapidly changing dynamics of today’s hospitals.

Hospital construction projects are on the rise. That’s good news for innovative healthcare architects who are up to today’s challenges, with an eye on the future.