Trends Shaping Higher Education: Health Science Facility Design

Trend Toward Interdisciplinary Design

interdisciplinary design“Interdisciplinary” has become more than just a buzzword in higher education health science learning environments. Department separations are disappearing, and the promotion of interdisciplinary practice and learning, along with the desire to create spaces that support interdisciplinary education, are at the forefront in health science design. One factor driving this change is the healthcare industry, which is operating more holistically, focusing on patient outcomes and wellness.

This shift in healthcare delivery requires greater synergies among healthcare professionals and broader understanding of each other’s roles in the overall process. For a seamless transition from learning to doing, education environments are supporting this shift via the following changes to the learning environment.

1. By grouping spaces, like offices, in a suite, rather than organizing and grouping by department, non-departmental themes or areas of personal interest are considered.

2. Investments in laboratory and simulation spaces place a greater focus on creating interdisciplinary teams that may work together or cycle in and out to practice transfer of patient care. The result is an environment that is less specialized for one particular department, creates efficiencies of space utilization and establishes an environment that is similar to a working medical facility.

3. Designers can optimize and utilize community spaces (such as corridors, alcoves and overlooks) by parlaying social and study places that are interdisciplinary in nature and open to all.

4. Transparency allows for the observation and demonstration of learning environment activities. Allowing students to see the learning occurring in a space promotes broader understanding and increases interest in profession cross-pollination.

About the Author

Kate Yurko, AIA, LEED-AP is higher education leader at DLR Group in Minneapolis, MN.