I recently attended a healthcare symposium that discussed the Lean philosophy as it relates to healthcare design and delivery. This approach, derived from the Toyota Production System, focuses on improving quality and safety and eliminating waste. The presenter said waste is essentially occurring if an organization was not taking full advantage of the resources at its disposal.

This got me thinking about maximizing the value of site design and landscape in the healthcare setting. The health benefits of contact with nature are well documented, but I know many facilities have limited exterior spaces available to develop for possible use, or struggle with funding to develop such spaces. However, most projects today require on-site stormwater management, screening for parking lots and residential adjacencies, even required open space or street trees. Because these facilities require a permit, they are often designed by engineers who are focused on codes, and not on aesthetics.

However, the simple addition of a sidewalk, a bench, an annual flower planting, or lighting could transform these “required” spaces into natural areas that could benefit patients. In addition, natural spaces offer benefits to staff and families who also experience the stress of illness. Could there be a loop walking path on the campus? Could there be seating under shade trees, or perhaps focused on the view to a wet stormwater pond or natural area? It seems to me that we are “wasting” our landscape if we do not make it accessible to our patients, staff and families. Why not be LEAN with green?