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 Phillip Rollfing  

Ulrich Hospitals

Hospital buildings influence
patient outcomes, Ulrich says


Architects in the 21st century have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform American hospitals into patient-friendly healing environments, says Roger Ulrich, professor of architecture at Texas A&M University.

"Peer-reviewed research shows that hospitals are risky and stressful places, made more so by inappropriate traditional designs," Ulrich adds. "Research demonstrates the effects of the designed physical environment on medical outcomes, influencing the stress, pain, infection and satisfaction experienced by patients and even playing a part in whether a patient lives or dies. Hospitals built today may remain in place for generations, directly and intimately touching the lives of most Americans."

Ulrich was among several researchers featured at the College of Architecture's seventh annual faculty research symposium, "Research on the Built and Virtual Environments: Global Symposia Presentations 2005." He cites his own research and that of others to show that modern hospital designs should incorporate single-bed rooms with adequate lighting, proper ventilation and air filtration systems and convenient fixtures that encourage frequent hand-washing, all measures that reduce patient stress and the possibility of hospital-acquired infection.

The presentations, begun six years ago, showcase the college faculty's excellence in teaching and their research, which is "expanding the envelope beyond the norm," says Dean J. Thomas Regan. "This conference helps our faculty understand what others in the college are doing, enabling better collaboration, and helps our graduate students decide which faculty members they want to work with."

In addition to research on health facility design (Kirk Hamilton, Mardelle Shepley, Susan Rodiek) and construction, presentations at the conference ranged from converting existing structures into "surge" hospitals to cope with disasters (Sherry Bame, George Mann) to development of interpretations for the World War II battlefield site at Pointe du Hoc, France (Richard Burt) to surviving a major earthquake (John Nichols) to enhancing the realism of virtual simulations of water bubbles (Donald House) to technical matters such as contingent payment clauses in construction contracts (Joe Horlen) and movement of coefficients of compressed earth masonry units (Charles Graham) and methods of teaching architecture, among others.

Phillip R. Berke, who received his doctorate in architecture from Texas A&M and is now at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, delivered the keynote address, which examined the effectiveness of emerging alternative to traditional city planning patterns. Mel Lees, professor at the University of Salford's School of Construction and Property Management in Manchester, England, gave an invited presentation on opportunities for collaboration between his institution and faculty at Texas A&M. Fifty-three faculty research projects were presented at the conference.

A report on health-facility design cited by Ulrich may be accessed at:

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Roger Ulrich

A stark hospital hallway