Using the Healing Effects of Nature in Healthcare Design

These projects use access to nature as part of the healing process
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Webinar On-Demand
Sponsored by ROCKFON
Presented by Gina Chang, AIA, EDAC and Kent Muirhead, AIA

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explain how natural elements can positively influence patient and staff psychological and physiological responses to healthcare spaces.
  2. Describe the health benefits of making human connections to nature through purposeful design.
  3. List two ways in which access to nature augments the healing process.
  4. Identify two approaches used in the presented projects for integrating nature and nature-inspired healing environments.


AAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
This course can be self-reported to the AANB, as per their CE Guidelines
AAPEI 1 Structured Learning Hour
MAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
This course can be self-reported to the NLAA.
This course can be self-reported to the NSAA
NWTAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
OAA 1 Learning Hour
SAA 1 Hour of Core Learning
This course can be self-reported to the AIBC, as per their CE Guidelines.
This course is approved as a Structured Course
This course can be self-reported to the AANB, as per their CE Guidelines
Approved for structured learning
Approved for Core Learning
This course can be self-reported to the NLAA
Course may qualify for Learning Hours with NWTAA
Course eligible for OAA Learning Hours
This course is approved as a core course
This course can be self-reported for Learning Units to the Architectural Institute of British Columbia

This webinar is part of the Healthcare Academy

This course will take a look at two healthcare projects that have put a focus on the healing effects of nature. Many studies have shown the positive impact on healthcare outcomes that come from access to light, fresh air and natural environments. In addition, caregivers and healthcare professionals and staff can benefit from nature-inspired environments. This webinar will highlight how natural elements can positively influence patient and staff psychological and physiological responses to healthcare spaces.

Gina Chang, AIA, EDAC is a principal and healthcare architect at CO Architects. Gina will discuss the University of California Medical Center at Irvine. UC Irvine Health’s new Medical Center Campus sits balanced between its urban surroundings and the natural environment. Its address on Irvine’s major thoroughfare enables convenient access to the academic medical center’s cutting-edge clinical services. Immediately adjacent to the south end of campus is the San Joaquin Marsh natural preserve, which provides an opportunity to redefine the healing environment through unparalleled access to undisturbed nature. The campus includes a 144-bed, 350,000-square-foot specialty hospital and a 220,000-square-foot ambulatory care center, which specializes in orthopedic, oncology and neurological services, and will serve as Orange County’s comprehensive stroke center. The hospital and ambulatory care center are organized to maximize views to the marsh, whether from patient rooms, staff respite areas, terraces or the expansive events plaza. CO Architects’ design approach emphasizes opportunities for integrating nature and nature-inspired healing environments, including patient rooms placed based on views, daylit recovery areas and respect and protection for the local biosphere, all of which are touchstones in the firm’s healthcare practice.

Kent Muirhead, AIA, of CannonDesign will present the Sheppard Pratt Behavioral Health Campus project, a new hospital campus in Howard County, MD. The project is a new 85-bed, 156,000-sf hospital on the Sheppard Pratt campus that focuses on access to nature as part of the healing process. The new facility takes advantage of the site’s serene environment with inpatient units facing one of the several heavily forested swales. The majority of the patient bedrooms and all of the on-unit therapy and activity spaces face directly into the wooded landscape to capitalize on the healing effect of nature — a core philosophy of the Sheppard Pratt Health System. On-site campus amenities include wandering walking paths, natural sitting and reflecting areas accessible to patients, staff and visitors.

The presentations will be followed by a moderated discussion focused on how these innovative projects address several key issues.

University of California Medical Center at Irvine

Photo courtesy of CO Architects


Gina Chang, AIA, CO Architects is a project manager, healthcare architect and medical planner who has successfully led large teams through ambitious project goals. With over 15 years of experience, Gina understands the complex and unique nature of healthcare projects. She is an advocate for evidence-based design and sees each project as an opportunity to create an environment for healing and wellness. Gina joined CO Architects in 2007 as a medical planner and project coordinator for Palomar Medical Center, followed by roles as project manager for the UC San Diego Outpatient Pavilion and the SJH Queen of the Valley Medical Center Herman Family Pavilion. Gina holds a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, and is EDAC certified.


Kent Muirhead, AIA, CannonDesign is consistently recognized by universities, healthcare organizations and communities for his collaborative design process, thoughtful ideas and craft of execution. As one of our firm’s design principals, Kent’s passion and imagination fuels every project. His expertise and leadership extend through all phases of a project’s development, from its vision, programming, initial site-planning, and facility analysis through architectural implementation. Kent does it all with great diplomacy, collaboration and humor. Kent approaches all scales of projects with the same rigor and enthusiasm, it is this work methodology that has resulted in the success of more than 120 complex large-scale projects with ambitious clients. Kent’s passion for design extends to his interests outside of work, where he finds insight from a variety of disciplines and interests. In studying history, he gains context for creative endeavors. He finds inspiration for beauty and form in Nature. In storytelling, he appreciates structure and voice. In his pursuit of cultural diversity and appreciation, he honors a full range of perspectives.


ROCKFON Rockfon provides customers with a complete ceiling system offering, combining stone wool ceiling panels with suspension grid systems, metal ceiling solutions, and now wood ceilings. Our products help create beautiful, comfortable spaces. Easy to install and durable, they protect people from noise and the spread of fire while making a constructive contribution toward a sustainable future.


Originally published in August 2021