Planetree Visionary Design Network

Posted on October 8, 2010


This week the Planetree organization is having its annual conference. Planetree facilities are hospitals that have dedicated their operations to be more patient-centered and focused on quality of care through catering to the five senses and emotional well-being of the patient over the at-times cold technology of care delivery. I have done projects in a Planetree facility and Planetree is serious about the care in healthcare.

Last year Planetree certified five firms as inaugural Design Network firms. To be eligible, firms must apply for this certification and then undergo an interview process where a company’s philosophy is examined as well as past projects and design approaches to those projects. Interestingly, the application process has been closed for about a year and will re-open for applications this December.

In its application process, firms must fill out a self-evaluation that probably self-selects many potential companies out of the running. Firms must address efforts by their company in sustainability, healing environment design, evidence-based design, and understanding and interpretation of the Planetree mission among other questions.

Part of me is pleased Planetree has clearly described a philosophy that is vital and relevant to healthcare design. At the same time, I feel sour grapes for yet another organization attempting to cash in by creating yet another certification. Ideology and practice is just not good enough anymore; everyone apparently needs to hyperqualify as a specialist. Part of the Planetree certification process must be questioned when firms who have been innovative in sustainability, and healthcare pioneer firms are not recognized. Granted, Planetree is a niche market with a niche appeal (at least for now) with no need to grandfather any firms in.  Their program is their business; this is about an ethos for Planetree, not a lifetime achievement award. 

Yet, to do work with a Planetree facility involves some tire-kicking by the client to see whether the prospective team shares similar goals with the hospital, regardless of whether they are a card-carrying Design Network member. I suppose Planetree feels strongly enough that if they create an already-vetted list of firms as certified by them, they can offer those firms as “consultants” to hospitals who are truly in the dark or irrationally untrustworthy about who to hire and still get Planetree-sensitive design.

I want Planetree to succeed. I also like the organization’s small character and its presence as not being a ubiquitous brand, a la the USGBC and LEED, which begat an administrative behemoth. Who knows what Planetree will be like in five or ten years, but I vote for keeping things small with obsessive control over its mission and standards instead of the easy cliche of selling out.

Posted in: Interior Design