Clever hospital design is making the most of the seasonal weather

When the initial drawings for a new hospital building are first put together, there is a long list of considerations for the designers and architects to make. One of the most important discussions they have is how the building will be used when it is complete; who will come in? What will they do there? Are they working, being treated or visiting? How can their lives be made easier and more comfortable?

We know from studies and experience that good access to fresh air and daylight is good for a patient’s recovery – and in fact, good for our wellbeing generally – so this became a key component in the design for the new rehabilitation building at the Western Community Hospital.

We wanted to make sure that the courtyard in the centre of the building is well bathed is as much available sunlight and daylight as possible, all year round. The building is positioned so that in the middle of the summer, the sun will be able to rise up and over the courtyard to create a space where people can sit and enjoy the sunshine on pleasant days – including patients. The floor level is matched to the courtyard so there is no step to hinder anyone with access problems, and even patients in wheelchairs or in their beds can be wheeled outside.

This photograph is taken at the height of summer, on the afternoon of June 21 (summer solstice), to show how much sunlight fills the courtyard space.

In the winter, when the sun is much lower in the sky, the glazing around the terrace on the south corner of the building will allow the sunlight to cut straight across the corridor and into the courtyard, ensuring there is still daylight filtering through the building even in the colder months.

All the way around the building we have designed areas where patients, staff and visitors can see daylight and nature to create a bright, airy environment for them to spend time in. This is an important part of delivering holistic care that not only provides treatment for people’s physical and mental health needs, but considers their wider sense of wellbeing too, which we know has a significant effect on their rehabilitation.

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