Creating Healthy Healthcare Environments

The choice of products can affect the health of staff and patients in healthcare facilities
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Sponsored by Forbo Flooring Systems
Peter J. Arsenault, FAIA, NCARB, LEED AP

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify and recognize the health issues related to the transfer of infectious bacteria in indoor healthcare environments.
  2. Investigate the options and alternatives to improvement in healthier environments that contribute to indoor environmental quality in LEED and in general.
  3. Compare and contrast the differences between chemical approaches and natural approaches to addressing infectious bacteria in LEED-certified buildings and others healthcare facilities.
  4. Specify natural antimicrobial flooring and wall material consistent with LEED v4 for Healthcare.


1 GBCI CE Hour
This test is no longer available for credit

Patients generally tend to think of a healthcare facility as the first step on the road back to wellness. However, healthcare professionals, architects, and designers are becoming increasingly aware of a darker truth: The healthcare environment can create toxic threats to people, making them a short cut to more serious illness, permanent harm, and even death. And the risk isn't only limited to hospitals, but to other healthcare buildings where many people are brought together including all types of care facilities, acute care centers, specialty hospitals, clinics, ambulatory surgical centers, and long-term care facilities. The first step in creating truly healthy environments is to recognize the problem and then to find the most appropriate means of addressing it.

A Growing Problem: Hospital-Acquired Infections

The means of transferring illness from one person to another in an indoor setting is contained in infectious bacteria. It is these bacteria that are deposited on surfaces typically from an already infected person. When a non-infected person comes in contact with the bacteria in the indoor environment they are prone to have it transferred to something they are eating or drinking or to enter their body directly when they rub their eyes or nose, so they can become infected as well. This simple but common means of transferring infectious bacteria, and thus illness, is becoming increasingly recognized as a problem in indoor environments. Of particular concern is a growing realization that hospital patients are being infected with diseases from this bacteria while they were still in the hospital thus giving rise to the term hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).

Numerous studies have calculated the impact of these HAIs identifying as many as one in 20 patients who will contract an HAI sometime during a hospital stay. While it's bad enough that these hospital patients are getting infected and ill, what's worse is that four in every 100 will die. That's more than the number of Americans killed in car accidents, fires, and drowning combined. Hence, HAIs are currently recognized as being among the most common causes of accidental death in the United States.

Children's Specialized Hospital in Mountainside, New Jersey

Photo by Stantec/Halkin Architectural Photography LLC; courtesy of Forbo Flooring Systems

Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside, New Jersey


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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in May 2014