Each year, after evaluating dozens of projects and selecting winners, the Healthcare Design Showcase jury takes a step back and gives a 360-degree look at all the submissions, pulling out common themes, emerging trends, and what they liked most (and didn’t like). The process provides an opportunity to weigh in on where they see the industry heading, as well as where it needs to go—or what areas they think are ripe for addressing in the future.

This year’s jury members noted that high-scoring projects stood out for successfully integrating exterior and interior environments, incorporating nature and biophilic design elements, and expertly responding to the needs of the populations they serve. Here’s more on the trends that stood out to them in their review and what more they’d like to see going forward.

Pediatrics in the spotlight

As the healthcare sector becomes further specialized and focused on serving distinct populations, pediatric projects have been on the rise, with a number of these facilities being represented in this year’s Showcase competition.

“The focus on experience and outcomes as patients began to have more real choice and the advent of competition in the marketplace fueled some of this development, as more health systems began to offer women’s and pediatric services as flagship programs,” says Randy Guillot, principal and design director, global practice area leader health and wellness at Gensler (Chicago). “Not insignificant is that as we move toward a value-based model, catching issues early on can save decades of recurring costs.”

Kelly Proctor, physical environment sector lead, DNV-GL Healthcare (Acworth, Ga.) agrees that pediatric healthcare will continue to grow in the U.S., especially as healthcare continues to  bring care closer to where patients live. “Communities want children’s hospitals that specialize in the care of children and not adult hospitals that can treat children,” he says.

Within these environments, project teams are focusing on providing environments that feel welcoming to children as well as their family members, with positive distractions for all. For example, Anna Shaw Children’s Institute in Dalton, Ga., which took home an Award of Merit in this year’s competition, delivered a treehouse-themed concept for the 54,000-square foot facility serving a patient population that includes children with physical and cognitive disorders. Jurors appreciated how the design balances the “programmatic needs and aesthetic strategy to create a very special project,” says Douglas King, principal at Stantec Architecture Inc. (Chicago). “It didn’t look like a ‘children’s facility’ but was designed with children in mind.”

For one Honorable Mention winner, Pediatric Specialty Clinic and Conference Center in Iowa City, Iowa, jurors appreciated the engaging environment full of interactive elements. Jurors also say the facility remodel—which had construction costs of $256 per square foot—is a great example of knowing where to spend money to make an impact. “If you don’t have $700 a square foot, you can still be great,” Guillot says.

Blurring the lines

The introduction of natural elements via design was also notable in this year’s competition, and “rightly so,” as more research supports the benefits of nature in the healing process, says Jerry Smith, founding principal of Smith/GreenHealth Consulting (Columbus, Ohio). “Healthcare designers are finding more creative ways to incorporate nature through direct connections and interactions. Integrated design will only be getting better due to this awakening.”

For example, several projects illustrated success in using outdoor courtyards and terraces to create a variety of spaces, from more social settings to ones that are designed for respite. At Honorable Mention-winning NYU Langone Health Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Pavilion, a café spills out onto a rooftop terrace, with seating overlooking Manhattan’s East River, while a more contemplative garden winds around the south end of the building, providing more intimate areas for individuals and families.

Biophilic design was also on display in this year’s Showcase submissions. One project that stood out to jurors was Asplundh Cancer Pavilion of Abington—Jefferson Health, which took home an Honorable Mention. The 86,000-square-foot facility in Willow Grove, Pa., utilized a “healing within a natural environment” concept by integrating an ecologically restored landscape on the site to highlight the healing aspect of the design, which was carried through the site layout, building siting, functional programming, and building envelope and interior.

“It was hugely successful,” Smith says. Gracyn Robinson, director of business development, senior interior designer at LWDA Design (Concord, Mass.) agrees, noting the seamless transition between spaces, landscaping, and utilization of light was “incredibly well done.”

Jurors also appreciated projects where interior and exterior design worked in concert. “The exterior design sets up expectations of what the interior design will be, and as designers we should hopefully honor that expectation,” King says. “The exterior of the building can also enhance wayfinding and the general feeling about being in a building, so having an exterior that is perceivable by visitors … is important.”

One notable example—and an Award of Merit winner—was the NewYork-Presbyterian David H. Koch Center in New York, where the design team inserted a wood screen into the triple-glazed assembly, along with an undulating frit pattern, to give the curtain wall a rich architectural character. Inside the building, the wood slats serve as a screening element, allowing exterior views while reducing glare.

However, while many winning projects displayed approaches such as these, Smith says he’d like to see the interaction with the landscape addressed more clearly as an integrative design solution. “We may see more innovative design solutions that directly address the role of therapeutic landscapes.”

Pushing ahead

Overall, jurors felt the quality and variety of projects in this year’s Showcase illustrated that the industry is on the right track. “Massive amounts of capital are being driven into healthcare, with the goal to deliver spaces which, through their design, will assist in the patient healing process and mitigate inpatient duration stays,” Robinson says.

Proctor is optimistic for the future, as well. “The industry is paying attention to the needs of the patients and they’re paying attention to research,” he says. “Hospitals are being built more like resorts that provide healthcare. Patients can feel more relaxed, and they don’t feel like they’re in a sterile environment where sick people are.”

Still, they agree that there’s always room for improvement. “In general, design for respite and design for wellness (which is the broader topic) were both disappointingly under represented,” Gensler’s King says. “As a researcher for population health, I can see timid attempts at providing services for staff and patient wellness, but I think the design community is still a little unsure what that might mean.”

Guillot says he’d like to see a push in interior design to support fully human-centered care environments. “The advance in patient-centered, versus disease-centered, design has been a huge step forward,” he says. “Can we explore how to fully serve all in the caregiving journey, including family, friends, and other supporters? How could healthcare providers contribute at the top of their intelligence and compassion spectrum as human-centered institutions?”

Anne DiNardo is executive editor of Healthcare Design. She can be reached at anne.dinardo@emeraldexpo.com.