World Health Organization and Politecnico di Milano Unveil New Design Recommendations for Future Hospitals in European Region

Visualization of hospital refurbishment within the “San Martino Horizon

The World Health Organization (WHO) presented its latest design recommendations for new hospitals in the European Region during a recent event held in Baku. These guidelines, the result of a research partnership with the esteemed Politecnico di Milano, aim to address the evolving needs of healthcare facilities in the face of natural disasters, emergencies, and societal challenges. The Design & Health Lab at Politecnico, under the guidance of Professor Stefano Capolongo, coordinated the development of this groundbreaking document.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the significance of preparedness and continuity in healthcare services during times of crisis. Building resilient and adaptable hospital infrastructure has emerged as a vital approach to tackling the diverse factors reshaping our society, economy, and environment.

Hospitals play a pivotal role in interpreting these transformations, fostering urban regeneration, and generating widespread positive impacts within their communities. To effectively respond to emergencies and disasters, hospitals must be designed with robust and flexible infrastructure, ensuring high resistance to hazards while prioritizing safety and comfort.

Moreover, the pandemic has shed light on the critical role of the hospital environment in pathogen transmission, emphasizing the need to establish sustainable compliance with stringent hygiene standards.

Professor Stefano Capolongo, director of the Department of Architecture, Construction Engineering, and the Built Environment at Politecnico di Milano, commented on the future of hospital design, stating, “We are already living in the future, where technology, design, and organizational solutions have reached unprecedented levels. Today, the challenge lies in integrating all principles that aim at sustainable and inclusive development from a One Health perspective. The technical brief prepared for the World Health Organization brings together the main strategies for implementing flexible, resilient, and evidence-based innovative hospitals across the European region.”

These guidelines primarily target health institutions, health organizations, and their governing bodies, including general managers, architects, and technicians involved in healthcare infrastructure development.

The recommendations tackle future challenges from multiple perspectives. Firstly, they address the selection of hospital locations, considering different functions based on whether they are situated in city centres or suburbs, with the latter capable of serving larger areas. Furthermore, the guidelines emphasize the importance of green spaces, benefiting patients, medical staff, and overall worker well-being.

Spaces within hospitals must be designed to ensure accessibility for all segments of the population, focusing on aesthetic considerations both inside and outside the facility.

Digitization plays a crucial role at the managerial level, facilitating the management of goods and services within hospitals while enhancing local area work and service organization.

The hospital of the future must be open to change and actively collaborate with the local health network to enhance services, strengthen the resilience of the healthcare system, and facilitate patient access to local medical resources.

In the planning stage, infection risks within hospitals must be taken into account, with particular attention paid to air quality control during the design and construction phases, including robust hygiene management.

The hospital of the future should embody social, economic, and ecological sustainability, incorporating strategies that encompass the entire life cycle of the facility. This includes efficient energy and resource management, as well as provisions for potential adaptations and expansions.

To ensure comprehensive safety, preventative measures must be implemented to address general safety concerns, fire risks, and seismic events. This holistic approach encompasses all aspects, including design and construction, ongoing maintenance, training, and emergency preparedness.

The WHO’s collaboration with Politecnico di Milano sets the stage for a paradigm shift in hospital design, with the aim of creating healthcare facilities that are agile, resilient, and capable of meeting the diverse challenges of the future.

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