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Reimagining Childbirth Facilities: Experiencing the Outside – In

Troy Savage

Project Manager
10/20/18

As I looked at what our Reimagining Groups produced, I had to ask myself, “was this a workshop about childbirth facilities or about landscape architecture!”  So many of the groups’ ideas included landscape elements and gardens, that at times, it was hard to tell. (Discover more about the Clinicians + Designers Workshops here, including the first workshop focusing on the Emergency Department.)

Why so many gardens? (You might ask.)

The groups started by discussing desired outcomes from childbirth (so that we knew the purpose of reimagining). We started with a graphic based on the new World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. (Released in February 2018.)

WHO Reproductive GuidelinesThe gist of the message — healthy mother and baby is the top priority. AND, the experience of childbirth, including respecting a woman’s desires and choices within the process, is a significant priority.

I think this led to many of the groups thinking holistically about how to ensure that, to the extent possible. How can we better ensure that laboring woman have the most positive experience (in accordance with their wishes) while still ensuring the health and safety of mother and baby?

So maybe, we saw so many gardens because these groups instinctively saw the connection between access to nature and positive experience.  Where we can, let’s give folks a viable choice to interact in the type of “atmosphere” nature provides.  Trees, water, the ability to walk all seemed important (according to participating clinicians).

The groups delivered. One group ensured an outdoor courtyard that was easily accessible for low risk deliveries and could be seen by those experiencing a higher risk pregnancy and who, therefore, might not be as mobile.  Groups used technology to ensure patients are mobile so they could access gardens and outside areas.  One group created a full outdoor garden and labyrinth!

Yet, there is a catch. More often than not, when a laboring woman begins to push, she is doing so inside a room.  So if we want the full benefits of outside during this process, we need to find ways to capture the experience inside.

As designers (engineers and architects), we are tasked with this challenge. We can collaborate to bring some of the benefits of outside into the actual birthing room… This includes ventilation considerations, lighting, auditory, etc. We are responsible to collaborate to design systems that efficiently and effectively bring the outside experience in. (No small order, but a worthy one.)

And, the importance of this extends beyond birthing facilities. The hospital experience is critical for all types of patients.  A patient on a cardiac floor is equally deserving of a better experience in the hospital.  As electrical engineers, lighting designers, mechanical designers, medical equipment planners, architects and other types of designers, we must push for more collaborative, more holistic design processes to produce better outcomes. Together, we are responsible for delivering an experience (different mindset than merely a design document).

Interested to receive advance notice of future Reimagining Workshops, sign up here.


Angelica Chow

Electrical Designer

Arash Guity, PE, LEED AP, CEM

Associate Principal, Senior Energy Consultant

Arturo S Salud

Associate, Senior Electrical Designer

Austin Barolin, PE, CEM, LEED AP O&M

Associate, Senior Energy Analyst

Bill Caron, PE

Associate Principal, Senior Mechanical Engineer

Bill Hinton, CNMT

Associate Principal, Technology Team Leader

Brennan Schumacher, LEED AP

Senior Associate, Senior Lighting Designer

Brian Hageman, LEED AP

Associate Principal, Discipline Leader

Brian Hans, PE, LEED AP

Senior Associate, Senior Mechanical Engineer

Brian J. Lottis, LEED AP BD+C

Associate, Senior Mechanical Designer

Brianne Copes, PE, LEED AP

Associate, Mechanical Engineer

Chris Hanzel, PE, LEED AP

Senior Associate, Senior Mechanical Engineer

Chris Johnson, LEED AP BD+C

Associate, Project Manager

Chris Sisco

Senior Software Engineer

Cynthia Mercante

Associate Principal, Director of Software Development

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