A hospital is a challenging environment in terms of acoustics and to support recovery. There is a constant flow of people moving around the spaces. The rooms themselves feature no shortage of hard surfaces, and a range of different equipment makes the spaces even noisier. The acoustics must also be capable of meeting high hygiene requirements.
Read about this building case in Satakunta Hospital District and how they solved the acoustic challenges with ‘fine art’.
Satakunta Central Hospital – Children and Women’s Unit
The Children and Women’s Unit in Satakunta Central Hospital is one of the largest investments undertaken by Satakunta Hospital District. After opening for use in the spring of 2015, these modern new facilities brought together the children’s and women’s departments,. They had previously been scattered around the hospital. The remarkable spaces are highly user-friendly and feature impressive acoustic solutions.
The old buildings did not meet new standards
The Children and Women’s Unit replaced dated 1970s and 80s buildings that no longer met the needs of a modern hospital. The new spaces are now home to the specialist medical care department for children’s and women’s diseases, the maternity department, the neonatal intensive care unit, the children’s surgery unit, and part of the equipment unit.
One of the cornerstones of the design work was maintaining a constant dialogue with the users. The staff was involved in considering how the spaces could be made as practical and comfortable as possible. This has allowed the unit to serve its purpose perfectly, without compromise.
“Hospital spaces have a whole range of special requirements, and these can be tricky to perceive at the planning stage. The ones who know best what works and what doesn’t are the people who use the space,”
states Tapio Kallio, project director at Satakunta Hospital District.
Busy but calm
When walking around the building, the visitor’s attention is drawn to the use of colors, images, and art to create an innovative feel. Furthermore, the atmosphere is tranquil, even though the spaces themselves are busy.
“Feedback from the first few months indicates that we have succeeded in creating the perfect atmosphere, both visually and acoustically. The spaces are open and light, but the sound environment remains soft,”
Kallio states, describing the building’s interior. Patient privacy is of great importance in hospital environments. Encounters at registration desks, in patient rooms, and in corridors can all involve discussion of personal topics. Good sound absorption prevents conversations being overheard.
Creative acoustic solutions on the walls and the ceilings
Acoustics sometimes have to solve other demands too. In this case it should be part of the design. The long, noisy corridors that characterize hospitals were transformed into calm spaces using large wall panels, which double up as impressive pieces of art. (Read another post about why vertical acoustics matter in healthcare here).
Photographs taken by local artists have been printed onto the fabric upholstered onto the panels. Illustrated acoustic panels have also been placed on the ceilings above the examination tables in treatment rooms, to give patients something to look at during their treatment.
Animal pictures in the children’s treatment rooms are particularly popular and this theme actually continues in the building’s lobby areas. (Read about another hospital where ‘jungle design’ is a succes in a childrens ward here). The acoustic panels here have been upholstered behind the colourful works of art. This solution has also provided the spaces with personality and a tranquil sound environment. The hospital has high hygiene requirements, which were also taken into consideration in the design of the acoustics.
Better than the target values
The Children and Women’s Unit features plenty of sound absorbing materials and the architectural and acoustic design in the hospital is designed by Arkkitehtistudio Kujala & Kolehmainen. The furnishing and interior design was the responsibility of Eveliina Mäki-Opas, who believes that good acoustics can have an impact on patient recovery:
“We spent a good while considering how we could provide acoustics that would be beneficial from a therapeutic perspective, looking at how they can promote recovery. You can feel the surrounding sound environment throughout your body. It can also be difficult to sleep well in a noisy environment.”
Room acoustic measurements were done in most areas and the lovely design not only met the demands – it was acually better!
The low reverberation times are important to keep the sound levels down in an environment where especially the younger patients need to feel calm and safe. Eveliina Mäki-Opas states:
A sense of tranquillity is known to create a feeling of safety, which is particularly important for the younger patients. The hospital staff have also expressed their gratitude for the new spaces. The building, designed with acoustics in mind, provides a pleasant working environment and improves occupational well-being.
Next year (2018) there will be a revision of the Finnish acoustic standard – and we are looking forward to seeing if other descriptors than reverberation time will be part of it.