Stress less: the benefits of gardens in facilities

by FM Media
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The concepts of biophilic and people-centred design to help improve the quality of healthcare and patient outcomes around the world is one step closer to being realised thanks to critically-acclaimed Queensland research.

The research paper ‘Normalcy in healthcare design: An extension of the natural and built environment’ outlines the case for gardens in healthcare facilities. Co-authored by Conrad Gargett principal landscape architect Katharina Nieberler-Walker in partnership with Griffith University and QUT, the paper explores how the inclusion of green spaces in healthcare facilities can reduce stress for staff, patients and their families, while helping to expedite recovery times for patients by ‘normalising’ hospital environments.

The focus of the research was 11 ‘healing’ gardens at the Conrad Gargett landscape-designed Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital (LCCH) in Brisbane, Australia. The design of each garden drew extensively on emergent evidence-based findings about the therapeutic and sustainability properties of integrated gardens.

Nieberler-Walker was involved in the design process from the initial design. She believes the role of green infrastructure in hospital buildings in promoting normalising environments is a topic not yet fully investigated. And this concept of healing gardens can be adopted into other types of built environments.

“The definition of a healing garden is generally agreed to be a nature-oriented space designed to provide restorative, therapeutic or rehabilitative potential,” Nieberler-Walker comments.

“In this research, we explored and expanded upon various design considerations for reducing stress and confusion, as well as providing a sense of normalcy in what can be a very challenging time for patients, patient families and staff.”

The research has the capacity to be transferred outside of healthcare environments and into other types of facilities, such as office buildings, to reduce workers’ stress levels and create a healthy environment.


“Preliminary evaluation of the LCCH healing gardens provides much needed evidence of design considerations for healing gardens that contribute to both their ability to improve patient experiences and wellbeing, as well as the sustainability of these spaces.”

Incorporating healing gardens into healthcare settings is an example of biophilic design, which could loosely be described as nature informing the function of architecture. In healthcare, biophilic design inserts gardens, or nature, into clinical spaces to create a sense of ‘being away’ from the hospital or facility.

According to Nieberler-Walker, having 11 gardens throughout the children’s hospital offered various opportunities to access nature as well as natural light while allowing time away in nature to help re-establish our capacity to pay attention.

“Whilst interest in, and the inclusion of, gardens in hospitals is increasing, there still remain few examples of rigorously researched and evaluated healing gardens that contribute to patient experiences and well-being,” Nieberler-Walker says.

The paper was highly commended for ‘Design Research’ at this year’s European Healthcare Design Awards.

Lead image courtesy of Conrad Gargett.

Images of the LCCH by Christopher Frederick Jones.

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