In his 1984 study, Roger Ulrich took a purely scientific approach to views of nature from hospital interior rooms and whether or not they help patients heal. And the short answer is that they do. The environmental psychologist found that patients who can view leafy trees from their bedside windows, on average, healed a day faster, needed less pain medication and had fewer postsurgical complications than patients whose views comprised a brick wall.

According to Sheila Semrou, AAHID, ASID, the human body and brain respond to natural light in a positive way and, when that’s not an option, light colors used on walls, ceilings and flooring also can have a positive impact. Perfect views of perfect landscapes are always welcomed but when that's not possible, Semrou says there are ways interior designers can bring a sense of nature into health facilities.

In "Natural elements for health care interiors," Semrou writes that "by taking design cues from local scenery, geographic elements and panoramic vistas, designers can deliver projects that will feel more comfortable, function better and work with mind, body and spirit to promote well-being."

The Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital in Berlin, Vt., designed this very concept into the fabric of its new 25-bed facility. The hospital was honored by the 11th Design & Health World Congress with the mental health project award and the interior design project award. The design team, headed by architecture +, had the explicit goal of promoting healing and reducing aggression among patients. It drew on elements from the Vermont landscape to accomplish that.

Sara Wengert, principal and interior designer at architecture + says, "The interior design concept creates a soothing and restorative environment with each of the inpatient units themed by an iconic element of nature in Vermont with a coordinating color and season."


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