Michelle Trott

Michelle Trott (Headshot credit: CPL)

The American Institute of Architects Academy of Architecture for Health (AIA-AAH) appointed Michelle Trott as its 2024 board president.

Trott is vice president at CPL, a full-service architectural and engineering design firm in Rochester, N.Y., where she leads the firm’s northeast regional healthcare practice.

With AAH, Trott will preside over more than 9,000 volunteer members to advance the practice of architecture while upholding the organization’s values of diversity, inclusion, and sustainability, and the mission of education and networking.

In this Q+A with Healthcare Design, she discusses her career path and some of the industry challenges she aims to address in her new role.

Healthcare Design: What drew you to a career in healthcare design?

Trott: As a healthcare architect, my journey into this field was deeply personal. It began with a pivotal moment when my daughter fell seriously ill at the age of eight.

Witnessing her struggle firsthand within the healthcare system opened my eyes to the profound impact that architecture has on patient well-being. I noticed design aspects that could be optimized to enhance patient comfort and overall experience.

The complexities of healthcare design, its purpose in promoting health, and my own emotional journey all converged to inspire my career path.

I realized that architecture isn’t just about the building; it’s about shaping spaces that profoundly influence the lives of patients, parents, visitors, and healthcare staff. Every corridor, waiting room, and treatment area plays a crucial role in the healing process.

Thus, my commitment to this field was born from empathy, firsthand experience, and a desire to make a meaningful difference.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the healthcare design sector?

One of the most significant challenges in healthcare design is achieving a balance between functionality, aesthetics, and patient-centered care. The sector deals with financial constraints, evolving technologies, and the need to create spaces that foster healing while accommodating advanced medical equipment.

Additionally, the shift toward outpatient care and the demand for sustainable design further complicates the landscape. Successfully addressing these challenges requires innovative solutions that prioritize positive patient outcomes and well-being.

What specific areas of healthcare design do you aim to elevate in your new role?

As part of the Academy, we are promoting the design of health environments—those that provide health and well-being and equity of health. Through the understanding of evidence-based design we provide insights on what has worked effectively in the past so it can benefit our designs in the future.

As healthcare architects, we are at the forefront of shaping the present that has an impact on the well-being of countless individuals. We impart knowledge from fellow professionals and share best practices, innovations, and adaptable design principles. We promote designing environments that can bridge gaps and that are culturally sensitive and inclusive.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of well-designed acute care facilities. These spaces handle emergencies, critical illnesses, and patient surges with ever increasing staff shortages. Ensuring efficient layouts, infection control measures, and adequate resources are essential.

With the strain on healthcare systems, emergency departments play a pivotal role. Streamlined workflows, optimized triage areas, and adaptable spaces are in high demand.

As communities focus on preventive health, wellness centers, gyms, and recreational spaces become vital. Designing environments that promote physical and mental well-being is essential.

You’re also a champion of sustainability. How can the healthcare design sector further its efforts in this area?

The healthcare design sector stands at a pivotal juncture, where the imperative to balance functionality, aesthetics, and patient-centered care intersects with the urgent need for energy efficiency.

While we recognize the urgency of transitioning away from fossil fuels, we must tread thoughtfully.  Energy efficiency is a priority; we cannot ignore the pressing need to reduce our carbon footprint.

Energy-intensive healthcare facilities must embrace sustainable practices. We need to have a holistic approach to understanding that energy efficiency isn’t merely about switching off lights or adjusting thermostat, it’s about optimizing every aspect of hospital operations.

We need to provide a process, not abrupt cessation of ending fossil fuel use but a gradual transition. Hospitals rely on energy to function—life-saving equipment, climate control, and lighting all demand power. Our challenge lies in minimizing waste while ensuring uninterrupted care.

This should start with a baseline assessment. Hospitals should conduct thorough energy audits to understand their consumption patterns and baseline data, which will lead to targeted improvements.

What sustainable design strategies do you think should be top of mind for our industry?

Here are a few:

  • Energy Efficiency: Implementing efficient HVAC systems, LED lighting, and smart controls to reduce energy consumption while maintaining positive patient outcomes.
  • Renewable Energy: Incorporating solar panels, geothermal systems, and other renewable sources to power healthcare facilities.
  • Healthy Materials: Choosing non-toxic, low-VOC materials for interiors to improve indoor air quality.

For more on Trott, go here.

Anne DiNardo is editor-in-chief of Healthcare Design magazine and can be reached at anne.dinardo@emeraldx.com.