Plant Life in Hospitals

Posted on September 29, 2011

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Three weeks ago I toured a new critical access hospital in West Virginia and saw a lot of something I feel more hospitals should have:  plants.

This hospital showcased potted plants, flowers and small trees in larger spaces like the lobby and waiting areas. I particularly enjoyed a few corridors that had multiple plant sconces with greeny-growies, as a former mentor of mine was fond of saying, that cascaded over the lips of the wall features.

What I learned later was the hospital contracts a company to furnish and maintain the plants. Smart. Such a simple move adds so much to a facility. Why don’t more hospitals do this?

I want to throw a few nuggets out. No, hospitals do not get a credit for LEED for Healthcare if they have plants in their facilities. Yes, plants produce oxygen, which is a benefit to an interior environment. Yes, views of nature have been proven to speed healing, but no, an interior potted plant does not qualify as a view of nature.

To my knowledge there is nothing in JCAHO standards that discourage or prohibit plants in hospitals. Are plant leaves considered “dust shelves”? Highly unlikely, especially if a hospital has a third party service contract to maintain them. Perhaps to an overzealous infection control manager, they might be said to harbor spores or aggrevate allergies, but c’mon—spores get into indoor air everywhere. Maybe they are a potential maintenance headache for a large facility, yet most hospitals are not exactly the MGM Grand, which has 886 floral arrangements throughout its hotel and restaurants according to the Wall Street Journal.

I cannot come up with a good reason why plants are absent in interior healing environments.  I hope this changes as the healthcare industry’s view of the outdoors, healing gardens and the environment become more accepting.

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Posted in: Interior Design