Clockwork Architecture + Design

Patients reap the rewards of 'healing architecture'

Chris Jimenez - Wednesday, January 31, 2018

I know a hospital administrator who would repeatedly remind his employees, “We’re selling a service no one wants.” It was his way of reinforcing the importance of making every patient visit as comfortable as possible. Because – let’s face it – no one wants to go to the doctor. Ever.

Doctor visits (and, even worse, hospital stays) are inherently stressful—invasive tests and procedures, the discomfort of an illness, the worry about the bill. And stress is a destructive force. Even as we’re visiting the doctor to get better, our body is working against itself as it wrestles with anxiety and fear.

However, health care providers are learning more about how to enhance the power of the environment that surrounds the patient to better their experience. By working with forward-thinking architecture and design firms, these hospitals and clinics are creating physical sanctuaries that promote healing and reduce stress—giving treatments a much better chance to work.

Let the light shine in

Sunlight heals! Natural sunlight and a view to the outside are now playing a larger role in health care design.

The research has proven its power: One study from the Department of Neuropsychiatric Sciences at the University of Milan found that bipolar patients assigned to an east-facing room with access to bright, morning sunlight reduced their hospital stay by four days, as compared with patients in west-facing rooms. Another study looked at heart patients in the critical care unit. Those with rooms that overlooked sunny areas had a lower mortality rate than those with rooms that overlooked shadowed areas.

The benefits are not limited to sunlight, of course, as new advances in LED technology are demonstrating. Building Design + Construction reports:

“Although LED lighting usually gets attention as a money-saving, energy-saving strategy … it can also bring measurable improvements to a facility’s performance in terms of patient recovery times, patient experience, medical staff performance, and staff job satisfaction.”

Get back to nature

Even as our society becomes increasingly more technology-centered, we still inherently crave that basic connection to the natural world. While a sunny view is nice, a sunny view of a garden has a much more profound effect on healing than a sunny view of a brick wall or a rooftop covered in HVAC equipment. In fact, research from Roger Ulrich, director of the Center for Health Systems & Design at Texas A&M, has proven that just looking at certain aspects of the natural world can “significantly ameliorate stress within only five minutes or less.”

In addition, it turns out that pictures of nature and unexpected imagery are almost as good as the real thing. One study reported by Ulrich showed that, “Compared to patients assigned abstract pictures and control groups given no pictures, patients exposed to a nature view of water and trees [had] less anxiety and required fewer strong pain doses.”

Anne Stahl, one of our project designers, recently integrated a lively mural along the patient corridors of one of our health care projects. The art interacts with daylight, providing a calming experience of discovery and enjoyment.

More than just a pretty space

We were excited to bring many of these best practices to life with a recent project we worked on in Annapolis, Md. Children’s National Health System was relocating one of its clinics, and we partnered with their staff to create a truly one-of-a-kind environment for their pediatric patients.

Instead of one large waiting room, we designed several separate wait areas for a more personal (and private) experience. We made sure to include large windows to let in as much daylight (and views of nature) as possible. Throughout the clinic, we also infused many natural wood elements to cut down on the “institutional” feel and carry that connection with nature through the patient journey.

One of my favorite features is the furniture in the waiting areas, which I describe as “part furniture, part exploration.” The seating is comfortable for parents but allows kids to climb and explore—instead of just sitting in a chair and worrying.

Amy Goodwin, executive director of public relations and corporate communications for Children’s National, said the new space has been well-received by patients and their families:

“There’s beautiful art that’s colorful, exciting, very modern. The lighting is subtle and takes advantage of all the natural light, and it just has a very warm feel. It doesn’t feel like a clinical space. You can go there and get the best possible pediatric care; at the same time, you don’t feel like you’re in a hospital or a physician’s office.”

We’re excited to continue our work on even more projects that incorporate this type of “healing architecture.” All of us at Clockwork believe design is more than just an afterthought or matter of aesthetics, and whether it’s a corporate office space, residential apartment, bank or pediatric clinic, we love helping our clients create a space that just feels good.

Chester Bartels is a principal at Clockwork, an architecture + design firm ready to align with forward thinkers and progressive leaders. How has design improved the patient experience for you? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or on Twitter @ClockworkAD.

Keep talent (and attract even more) through smart workplace design

Chris Jimenez - Thursday, December 07, 2017

Good salary? Sure. Health insurance, 401(k), some vacation days? Always nice to have.

How about a short commute and a vending machine with plenty of Cool Ranch Doritos? Sign me up.

But as important as all of these factors are to job satisfaction, it turns out that workplace design – the form and function of the physical space where you do your daily work – ranks close to the top for today’s employees and job-seekers. And smart companies are finally beginning to take note.

Although they’re far from extinct, I think we can all agree that the fluorescent wastelands and cubicle farms of decades past are as productivity-inhibiting as they are soul-sucking. Progressive business owners and executives are realizing the correlation between an attractive, functional, adaptable space and employee satisfaction.

A recent study from Hassel backed this up, showing that while salary is still the top driver for the attractiveness of a job at 45 percent, workplace culture (32 percent) and facilities (16 percent) round out the top three. And I can attest firsthand that workplace aesthetics can immediately impact the perception of potential talent; essentially, your company is immediately judged good or bad based on what candidates see around them at the interview.

Cultivate your culture

This does not mean companies should design just for the sake of design, but rather your workplace should reflect who you are as a company, and possibly who you want to become. The power comes from the ability to transform your space from a collection of walls and windows where work is done into an environment that’s a true expression of that work.

Clockwork recently worked with Scott Long Construction in the Washington, D.C., area to design a new headquarters for this 55-year-old, second-generation company. Previously working in a dim and segregated building, the company wanted a more collaborative environment with plenty of mixed-use spaces and areas to get together as a team. We incorporated raw materials found in construction and merged them with modern elements to create a design unique to their brand. And while the company had traditionally been modest, the new direction incorporated large splashes of color that not only paints a new company direction but invigorates employees and candidates alike.

John Scott, president and CEO, said he’s pleased by the impression it makes on clients as well as current and potential new employees.

“Employee development is a big focus for us, and Clockwork helped us choose how and where people would sit, the artwork in the space, how workspaces are oriented—all to facilitate better relationships among staff,” he said. “It truly transformed who we are.”

Adapt to accommodate

While I feel like I’m always reading another story about the impact of Millennials in the work force, the reality is most companies have a very diverse mix of ages and work styles all under one roof. Your workplace design should reflect this diversity and have the ability to cater to everyone. While Millennials, generally speaking, may crave more open work areas, one study showed the 45 to 54 age group ranked privacy as their top driver of productivity—which means adding some private work areas to balance your collaboration areas.

This kind of variety can be beneficial: A study by Steelcase found that when employees feel like they have more control in their work setting, they’re more engaged:

“The most highly engaged employees have greater flexibility … can move around the office easily, change postures and choose where they want to work in the office based on the tasks they need to do ... A key design principle for the workplace is to create a range of spaces – for groups and individuals, mobile and resident workers – and corresponding work policies that enable employees to make choices about the best ways to work.”

The beauty in this finding is that it only reinforces the culture aspect of the workspace. By providing an adaptable work environment and soliciting feedback from your employees about what matters to them, you create an internal culture of openness—one that proclaims that employees are valued and that change is not only welcome but seen as a positive.

It’s an exciting time to be in the architecture and design industry, to witness this next generation of the workplace. It shows how good design can be not only aesthetically pleasing but also productive for your business. Just one look at the recent “Coolest Office Spaces” competition in the Kansas City Business Journal and you’ll see some of the innovative ways our hometown businesses have created fun and productive work environments for their employees.

These companies get it—will yours?

Chris Jimenez is a principal at Clockwork, an architecture + design firm ready to align with forward thinkers and progressive leaders. How has design played a role in your employee satisfaction efforts? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or on Twitter @ClockworkAD.

Case Closed - Good Design Will Positively Impact Your Business

Santina Cessor - Thursday, September 10, 2015
The proof is in the pudding, in fact good design will positively impact your business - here is the proof. We are thrilled to see our law firm clients enhancing their brands and experiencing direct business results. 


Intouch Solutions - Kansas City Headquarters

Santina Cessor - Monday, November 10, 2014

Another Happy Customer...

“The previous office was very spread out,” explains Chris Jimenez, architectural project manager. “The company had to grow around it, and it lacked the feeling of a branded space. That’s why we put our main focus on collaboration.”

Seyferth Blumenthal Harris

Jenny Christenson - Thursday, June 05, 2014

interior renovation in an existing office space...

Our relationship with Seyferth Blumenthal Harris (SBH) extends back 8 years to when we completed their previous office in a historically renovated structure.  The firm had grown significantly over the years and the design of the space remained of critical importance to the leadership team.

The challenge of the new space was to design a collaborative, efficient and attractive space that maximized their stellar views while holding true to the historical features of the building and provide a professional but slightly less formal layout.

The SBH leadership team sought an entry space that would instantly induce a state of calmness for their client’s upon arrival. To successfully achieve their vision, we were able to take full advantage of our diverse portfolio and draw inspiration from our hospitality projects across the globe.  The open collaborative space allows attorneys and support staff to come together and share ideas without having to reserve formal conference spaces. All of the finishes in the space were chosen to emphasize the firm’s culture, one of confidence but without pretense.

Acting as a trusted advisor, our team negotiated on behalf of SBH to ensure they received the highest quality possible at the lowest achievable cost. A simple exposed concrete floor and exposed ceilings through much of the circulation space allowed construction dollars to be spent where they could achieve the biggest impact.

“…we were able to take full advantage of our diverse portfolio and draw inspiration from our hospitality projects across the globe…”