Everyone has gone to their grandparent’s house and found the thermostat at a level close to the tropics. This is a typical response to the changes in our circulation, metabolism, and other systems when we age. These changes make people more sensitive to cold temperature, thus older people typically prefer a warmer environment.

Healthcare facilities are not known for their warm (temperature) environments. The staff walk miles during their shift, even in the most efficiently designed buildings. This means that healthcare facilities need to strike a healthy balance between not being too hot for the hard-working staff, but also not too cool for the older patients who prefer a warmer setting.

When it comes down to it, compromise is almost always the name of the game with healthcare design. Just like I don’t expect the patient room to be set to my ideal temperature, I also don’t expect down comforters on every patient bed because they would never survive the required cleaning.

While give-and-take is important in healthcare facility deign, the boomer generation has higher expectations for these spaces. Technologies such as radiant panels—which heat a surface, not the air—are a great solution. The use of dryer air is proven to allow a warmer temperature in the summer and humidified air allows colder temperatures in the winter. The staff should also stay comfortable in these conditions.

It’s also important to note that some modifications will have an impact on operating costs. Using industry standard comfort calculations that are similar to ASHRAE Standard 55 are an excellent resource to help strike that balance.

The boomer generation and their family will also desire greater control over the temperature. Though oftentimes limited to the staff, BSA LifeStructures has designed touch-screen temperature interfaces on multiple projects. This intuitive interaction is an expectation of boomer nation. They are accustomed to controlling their environment in their living room and expect that capability in the patient room, as well. 

As healthcare facility designers, we need to challenge ourselves to find ways that enable patients to have more control over their environment. Doing this within the boundaries of compromise for caregivers will position healthcare facilities to successfully maintain patient comfort, while maintaining the higher expectations of boomer nation. 

Doug Fick is an engineer and director of practice groups at BSA Life Structures. He can be reached at dfick@bsalifestructures.com.