Planning healthcare campuses to promote health and wellness requires a new approach to the way this process has traditionally been done.

Rather than creating hospitals as towering structures set apart from communities and surrounded by a sea of parking lots, modern updates to the model make facilities centerpieces to wellness-oriented communities, inspiring wellness not only by providing healthcare services but by collaborating with other service providers from health centers to retailers to restaurants that all support healthy lifestyles.

For HDR Architecture Inc. (Omaha, Neb.), which is designing Focal Point—a healthcare-anchored, mixed-use development on Chicago’s southwest side featuring a new St. Anthony Hospital complemented by a number of services to keep the community’s residents well—a peer-review process introduced plenty of challenges for the model presented.

“By the time we were done with it, it started to look like your traditional hospital. But it can’t be this hospital out in the corner with service in the back and a big parking lot around it,” says Tom Trenolone, vice president and design director for HDR’s Great Plains Studios. “That’s been the hardest thing, getting the hybridization of it. It’s a mixed-use exercise.”

Knowing the appropriate mixed-use elements to include in a wellness initiative starts with understanding the population being served. “There isn’t one set answer for this. It could be many,” says Yogi Patil, practice leader of healthcare urbanism at HKS Architects Inc. (Dallas).

Whether healthcare providers are exploring a new greenfield project such as a health village or contemplating their role in an urban renewal of their existing communities, complements to the process that will promote patient’s healthy lifestyles can include retail, entertainment, health clubs, conference centers, restaurants, research buildings, and academic institutions—all in addition to healthcare pieces. And those healthcare pieces don’t necessarily have to be a hospital at all, but could simply be the addition of an ambulatory care center, for example.  

But it all starts with a plan that includes those types of desired mixed-use pieces and more, says Jody Barry, administrative director of strategic development for Florida Hospital and Adventist Health System’s Florida Division, who’s overseeing the development of the Florida Hospital Health Village in Orlando.

“Number one is to have a plan that’s flexible and that allows different uses in different spots, because thinking changes over time. Then there are those elements that you don’t want to ever compromise on, like going to a narrow sidewalk or reducing landscaping or signage,” he says. It’s those types of design standards that Barry says help support the intent of the overall project: “As soon as we compromise on those standards, we’ve lost our vision.”

For existing campuses in particular, Jason Harper, senior medical planner and associate principal at Perkins+Will (New York), stresses that the boundary between campus and community is a critical place to start. Design should focus, first, on integration, looking at how neighbors might enter the grounds and what opportunities are available for those visits to become part of their daily lives.

“Part of it is getting out of the car and looking around at street level. What environment has been created? Imagine living next door. Then take some real focus on improving that community interface,” he says.

So how do you make sure a campus invites the acute care patient alongside the neighbor out walking her dog? “There’s got to be an element of a sense of place in entryways, how you approach the hospital,” Patil says. “You create an environment with courtyards, plazas, and walkways through it. You have to make people feel that they’re invited and are welcome.”

For more on the trend to create healthcare campuses that support healthy lifestyles, see “Designing For Wellness: The Healthcare Campus Of The Future.”