Why We Do What We Do

The Power of Healing – Green Roofs and Healing Gardens

Tending to the psychological needs of patients has understated economic benefits. Research results demonstrate that poor design and lack of exposure to nature inhibit recovery rates and blood pressure stabilization, exacerbate anxiety and increase administration of pain medications. Increases in stress in both patients and nursing staff arise when there is high responsibility (the responsibility of recovering, and the responsibility of patient well-being, respectively) and low control (inability to alter surroundings and the inability to take a break, respectively). Studies in horticulture therapy and healing gardens for patients have directly credited these activities with reducing patient and staff stress, reducing patient medication use, and increasing staff satisfaction (Sadler et al., 2008). There are many factors that influence and trigger stress, but the built environment can act as a stress reliever for outside stresses, as well as independently trigger positive physiological reactions. Thus, a biophilic built environment can provide positive distractions, and positive distractions promote well-being by evoking positive feelings that hold attention away from bothersome thoughts.

Healing gardens have repeatedly been found to evoke pleasurable memories, promote good health, and act as a place of social connectivity for patients. The benefits of nature in the hospital setting extend to family members and visitors as well; an overwhelming 95% of all people visiting inpatients, surveyed across four independent hospitals, reported feeling more relaxed, rejuvenated, and positive. They also reported feeling less stressed and more able to cope with the situation (Marcus & Barnes, 1995). The evidence-based design research and results have been so compelling that Naomi Sachs of the Therapeutic Landscapes Resource Center estimates that between 280-570 hospitals in America have incorporated large-scale healing gardens into their design layout to provide patients with a sense of control, physical movement, and access to nature as a positive distraction (Domke, 2008).

The benefits accrued from exposure to nature extend not only to patients, but are also significant for hospital staff, considering that the alertness of nurses in hospitals is crucial to the comfort and health of patients. Nurses and hospital staff feel the effects of anxiety, depression, and lower job satisfaction when they have limited access to views to nature or contact with the outdoors. Conversely, staff members recover from stress more easily and perform better when provided with access to gardens and sunlight.

Evidence suggests that natural light, access to nature, and views of nature should be incorporated into design for healthcare facilities. While there are initial upfront costs to this design, the payback is in quantifiable patient and staff benefits. Even though design in the healthcare field has only recently generated attention, conscientious scientific studies continue to support the integration of nature into hospital settings for patient wellness, increased profit margins, and reduced hospital budgets. Each of these health benefits has dual economic advantages that reflect the value of evidence-based biophilic design for hospitals.

Greenrise knows about the positive nature of biophilic built environments because we build them every day. Greenrise has built numerous green roofs and healing gardens for hospitals and other medical facilities – and we have seen the reactions and interactions with these environments firsthand. Knowing that during their time in the hospital, patients and staff alike can experience the healing power of a healing garden or green roof that we built is exactly why we do what we do.

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