In this series, Healthcare Design asks leading healthcare design professionals, firms, and owners to tell us what’s got their attention and share some ideas on the subject.

Sonja Bochart is a design principal at Shepley Bulfinch (Phoenix). Here, she shares her thoughts on biophilic design, building a more transparent materials marketplace, and bringing mindfulness into design practices.

1. Nature’s medicine

Biophilic design is more than simply the inclusion of plants in the healthcare environment. It considers every aspect of the design, including lighting, flooring, wall coverings, window placement, air quality, art, access to the outdoors, and more. Implementing biophilic design has been shown to support physical and emotional health, reduce stress and the need for pain medication, and increase healing. I think we’ll continue to see more of this proven, leading-edge design concept used to further evolve healthcare environments and ensure patient well-being.

2. Materials matter

It’s imperative we make informed choices about specifying non-toxic materials and finishes in healthcare environments. A new resource, called Mindful MATERIALS, provides a central repository of information and tools to assist practitioners and designers, and helps manufacturers simplify content material and impact information. Tools like these encourage the industry to evolve and foster a transparent marketplace.

3. Beyond the building

Dr. Richard Jackson, professor at the Fielding School of Public Health at UCLA, has a simple message: Everything supports everything else. Why would this be essential to realize for our healthcare design work? The most honorable projects emerging today are not just buildings; they’re holistic environments that work together to impact different aspects of our communities, including nature, culture, governance, infrastructure, commerce, and design, which are all interconnected in support of overall well-being. As a forward-thinking pediatrician, his message reminds us that no longer will conventional siloed approaches to our work be enough. We must broaden our thinking from “me” to “we.”

4. We are our stories

I recently attended a workshop led by Beth Karlin, research director at University of Southern California’s Norman Lear Center, who facilitated an engaging session on storytelling and how telling our stories about our work can help us do it better. Karlin advised that we get clear about our purpose and then communicate it in a meaningful and memorable way. We were reminded that the key to motivation and connections is understanding that values inspire action through emotions.

5. A mindful practice

Healthcare design is a continuous balance between science and art, skillfully integrating innovation and best practices into every project. The pace is fast and although we may often feel we need to be doing more, science is telling us the exact opposite: Studies have shown that there’s great value in slowing down and focusing by bringing mindfulness to our work. Not only are we as healthcare design leaders seeing the value of such practices, the entire healthcare industry is reaping the benefits of learning to pay attention in the moment.

Want to share your Top 5? Contact executive editor Anne DiNardo at for submission instructions.