How Architecture Standards Align with Infection Control: Part 1

by Erica Mitchell | May 23 2022 | Infection Control, Architecture | 0 Comments

architecture awards-01Each year, thousands of buildings, including many healthcare facilities, are entered into architecture award programs, hoping to be recognized as the best the field has to offer. These entries are judged according to the accepted standards of modern architecture, which go beyond simple form and function. Healthcare facilities must not only meet these architectural standards, but dozens of regulatory standards along with many unique constraints in order to meet the needs of their target populations. In today's post, we'll look at how healthcare architects who include infection prevention in their planning help their projects align with the highest standards of their industry.

One of the most interesting architecture awards for a hospital project is The Center for Health Design's Touchstone Awards, which recognize evidence-based design projects. These awards recognize design projects that start with a hypothesis-driven design choice, from use of natural light to infection prevention. We have discussed evidence-based design here in the past, so if you're curious to learn more, check out these posts: Hospitals and Evidence-Based Design Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

What about outside the specifically healthcare-related design world? The leading professional organization for architects is the American Institute of Architects, or AIA. This association not only recognizes the best healthcare projects each year (Healthcare Design Awards), it also sets the standards for the industry. The AIA's Framework for Design Excellence "represents the defining principles of good design in the 21st century." They urge architects to design for integration, equitable communities, ecosystems, water, economy, energy, well-being, resources, change, and discovery.

Within the principle of well-being, which overlaps particularly strongly with healthcare design, the AIA urges architects to answer questions, which can be answered broadly as well as with a focus on infection control. 

How can the project provide for greater occupant comfort? Beyond selecting soothing colors and textures, including biocidal materials can help provide comfort. Materials that look like any other premium surface but contain bacteria-killing properties not only provide physical comfort, they also can help provide peace of mind. Patients and caregivers alike are aware of the potential contamination of hospital surfaces, and there are reassured by materials they know are continuously reducing bioburden.

How can material selection reduce hazards to occupants? For healthcare facilities, materials can protect patients from slipping and falling. Clear wayfinding using intuitive colors and layout can help occupants stay on track. Through the use of biocidal materials, a design can actually protect patients from becoming infected with a hospital associated infection (HAI) by reducing the risk of transmission. A healthcare architect who takes infection control into consideration when selecting materials can make an aesthetic choice that adds a layer of protection to the occupant, seamlessly supporting a key principle in modern architectural design.

Under the umbrella of these key principles, architectural standards also include 7 criteria. In our next post, we will share these principles, adding how planning with infection control in mind helps achieve these standards.

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