Skip navigation.

Environment and Design

See also Advancing the Practice: Architects and Interior Designers

Patient- and family-centered principles, processes, and approaches are both supported by and expressed in health care environments. The sterile, bland, clinical environment of the past is replaced by warm, inviting colors and textures; welcoming and easy-to-read signage; playful waiting areas for children; comfortable seating for the elderly; ample room for relatives in clinic areas and at the bedside; and the use of plants, windows, and artwork to create peaceful, diversionary, and healing spaces. The design of facilities supports family presence and participation in care and decision-making. It enhances patient and family access to information and support. The design of spaces, their juxtaposition, and the placement of equipment and information technology support staff in collaborating with patients and families. The design also supports staff efficiency and convenient access to respite.

A renovation or construction project offers the opportunity to rethink not only space considerations but also the institution's philosophy and approaches to care. Planning for facility design, construction, and renovation should be anchored in the vision, mission, values, and philosophy of care of the facility or unit, as well as in the specific goals of the project.

Collage from Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital in WI.

Successful design planning is also based on a collaborative approach with broad-based involvement The core planning group should be a multidisciplinary team composed of care providers, patients, family members,  administrators, architects, interior designers, and, in some cases, specialists in acoustics and lighting. Many institutions have found it valuable to also engage the larger community in the planning process. Each involved party contributes an essential perspective to the planning process. Of particular importance, collaboration with patients and families ensures that their needs, concerns, and interests are central in the planning process. A number of strategies may be used to encourage this collaboration and input. The guidance publication, Collaborative Design Planning, is available from the Institute.

Robert Wood Johnson logo

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has provided support to enhance the environment and design information available throughout our website.


Nathan Cummings Foundation

This section of the website was originally developed with support from The Nathan Cummings Foundation.


Patients and Families as Advisors »

The Design Planning Process »

Selecting an Architect »

Key Considerations - A Photo Gallery »

Issues to Consider »

Additional Resources »