There’s plenty of research showing how access to nature, daylighting, and fresh air can aid in the healing process, and this has driven many healthcare projects to dip their toes into “greener” waters, adding larger windows in patient rooms, installing a green roof, or providing a garden or walking path on campus.

Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane, Australia, takes this effort to a whole new level—and shows what can happen when you combine a dedicated project team and owner, evidence-based design (EBD), and a plan that integrates landscape elements into the building design.

Yes, Brisbane’s subtropical climate makes it ideal for maximizing daylight as well as natural ventilation. But rather than settle for a handful of outdoor spaces, the building form at the 800,000-square-foot hospital is stepped in as it rises from the ground and back into the site.

This design provides space for 11 rooftop gardens and a sloping green roof. “Only 23 percent of the site area is covered by a conventional roof,” says Katharina Nieberler-Walker, a senior associate at Conrad Gargett, which partnered with Lyons (Melbourne, Australia), an architectural and urban design practice, on the $1.2 billion project. “The remaining 77 percent is public open space or roof gardens.”

In addition to the rooftop spaces, patients, families, and staff can get views to the surrounding area as well as some fresh air via a number of balconies that are located at the ends of the public circulation paths on many of the floors.

The key to all of this natural goodness is making the landscape elements an integral part of the building and “not a mere add-on or something nice to have,” Nieberler-Walker says.

For example, the green sloping roof was under threat from budget cuts a number of times and as late as during construction, she says. “However, because of its integral design application it didn’t make sense to replace the green skin with a more conventional roof.”

Going forward, Nieberler-Walker says she'd also like to see research from this project help drive landscape design forward. Conrad Gargett plans to carry out a post-occupancy evaluation on the healing gardens this fall. In the meantime, Nieberler-Walker is waiting for approval from the owner to place a “bench diary” in one to gather feedback from users.

“Such research has the potential to influence the way health facilities are designed and the general approach to healthcare in Australia and overseas,” she says.

For an in-depth look at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, read “Lady Cilento Branches Out In Australia.”