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by Mary Jane Gilhooley
Health Facilities Management, February 2002
Article reference: Green Plants for Green Buildings
Case in point: Hannibal Regional Hospital
Hannibal Regional Hospital, an acute care facility located in Hannibal, Mo., enlisted the help of Plantmann Industries (St. Louis, Mo.) to install flowers and plants in its mall lobby area. The goal behind the installation was to provide a comfortable, relaxing environment for both patients and employees of the hospital. A large rest area with seating now contains 11 double adonida palm trees, some of which are more than 12 feet in height. Golden pothos, bromeliads and other plantings have also been installed Courtesy of Plantscaping, Inc. around the bases of the palms.
According to Carol Jaco, Senior Vice President of Patient Care for Hannibal Regional Hospital, the plant installation has been a huge success. “We recognize that the environment in which care is provided can significantly influence the healing process,” says Jaco. “The plants and flowers in Hannibal Regional Hospital’s mall contribute to the therapeutic milieu for both patients and their families.” Many visitors and employees of the hospital and its health care facilities have never seen such large indoor plant material, and often express disbelief that the large palms are real. “Patients and families really react to these plants, and many have remarked that the combination of plants and extensive light foster a sense of hope and comfort,” says Jaco. “Our plantings bring a sense of calming energy to the open and spacious architecture of the hospital. We believe that the appealing green space is an important overall contributor to individual and family well being for all who turn to us for care.”
Increased comfort levels
In addition to having a calming effect, plants can actually make a room more comfortable. The cooling effect of indoor trees and landscapes has been shown to keep indoor humidity levels at optimal range for human comfort. Plants cool by a process called transpiration. A recent study out of Washington State University demonstrated that plant transpiration in enclosed settings released moisture, creating a humidity level exactly matching the recommended human comfort range of 30 to 60 percent. Similarly, the same study concluded that in the absence of plants, the relative humidity in enclosed settings ran below this recommended range. For patients to heal, comfort is a necessity. By incorporating plants into the health care environment, health care facilities can enhance comfort levels for their patients.
More relaxing environment
It goes without saying that patients need calm surroundings to optimize healing. The positive contribution of interior trees and plants to noise reduction has been well documented in numerous studies, including work done by Dr. Helen Russell and Dr. David Uzzell of Surrey University, England.
When strategically placed, green foliage and plants in hospital settings can absorb sound, reducing what has become known as the “decibel distraction factor.” With sound-reducing plants in place, patients will be better able to rest and, eventually, heal. In addition less distractions due to noise can help health care employees stay more focused on the task at hand.
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