110 years after the original King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, the stunning new Te Wao Nui Child Health Service opens its doors. With heartfelt thanks to the sponsors, it is named after; Mark Dunajtschik and Dorothy Spotswood. This building and health care service is a gift to future generations of Kiwi kids across the central region.
The other contributing factor to good healthcare design, is driven by Evidence-Based Design. This means that rather than assuming that a particular way of doing things will work in a hospital setting, the design is led by well-researched practices which have been shown to improve patient recovery and staff productivity. Over the last 20 years, several key themes have emerged in which building designers can have the most impact. They are daylight, connection to nature, acoustics, and slips, trips & falls. For paediatric facilities, one more is added to those four - distractions. The only one of these that doesn't concern the lighting designer is acoustics which means lighting design is paramount to a successful healthcare building design.
Distraction has been shown to contribute both positively and negatively to patients’ stress levels and if done in a considered manner, can reduce the patient’s perception of pain. Reduced stress means better medication response, and reduced pain means fewer painkillers. Since medications interact, when patients have lower painkillers, they can have more of the medications that relate to their ailment, reducing recovery time. So we wanted to create an entrance that would positively distract kids so much that they'd be excited rather than stressed and forget about their pain. Research has found that people can decide within the first few seconds to minutes whether they feel comfortable within a space. For a child entering a hospital, this must be a beautiful and exciting experience as soon as they enter through the door. And then continue that theme throughout the child’s entire visit.
Every aspect of the lighting solution prioritised the user experience. Warm and welcoming lighting levels enveloped the hospital, creating a calming ambience on arrival.
On the 'ground' level in this building, the main lighting through the entrance space radiates in a sporadic manner, intending to reflect the sky through autumn branches. This was designed to give the impression of dappled lighting but calculated to still achieve high uniformity and lux levels to reduce trips or falls.
On level 3, patients will often be moving through the mezzanine between the Te Wao Nui medical ward and the link bridge connection to theatres in the main hospital building. As there will be patients in beds looking straight up while travelling across the mezzanine, the lighting is linear, parallel to the line of travel and offset to the sides, so it will not be directly in view of the patient. It also has a soft diffuser so that there is no risk of a direct view of the LED sources. This minimises glare for the patient while still bringing enough light to the circulation space for ease of use.
Note that there was no need to consider glare from the view of a bed in the foyer or entrance area at the ground level as it is not where patients in beds will enter (they will either use the back entrance to the lifts if arriving by ambulance or come across the link bridge at level 3).
Wellington Children's Hospital celebrated the collaboration between the design team, the architects, medical professionals, and child psychologists, which resulted in a facility that nurtures and heals the patients. From the innovative use of lighting technologies to the focus on paediatric user experience, this project embodied excellence in every aspect.
The New Wellington children's hospital, Te Wao Nui, built with whānau in mind has become a place of comfort and reassurance, where lighting played a crucial role in easing the burden of illness for our tamariki.