Navigating the Complexities of Designing Healthcare Spaces

Numerous offices have been left empty during lockdown as employees switch to remote working. Credit: kate.sade on Unsplash

The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have transformed architecture forever, particularly in healthcare.  Philip Ruffle, architectural lead at Munday + Cramer, explores the challenges facing healthcare design 

Architectural design requires consideration for health and safety regulations and regulatory compliance at all times. Arguably, the landscape of building layouts and design will have changed forever post Covid-19, with a surplus of new regulations in place.

However, there are few sectors where duty of care is as important as within the healthcare sector. This means that designing any building or facility used for healthcare purposes has its own set of exclusive particulars, requirements and ultimately, complications.

Munday + Cramer is a multi-disciplinary practice, that has provided design services for a range of healthcare projects over the past twenty years. It has shared their thoughts on the particularities of healthcare design in detail, discussing the complexities and requirements that come alongside the specialist sector.

Importance of design

Over the past few months, the pandemic has taught us a lot about our healthcare service. It has highlighted the importance of careful planning and working in collaboration across different sectors, from design and construction to technology and hygiene.

When it comes to patient health and wellbeing there is essentially no margin for error. Everything must flow seamlessly to relieve strain on our system, allow healthcare workers to do their jobs and ensure patients receive the best care.

Each element of the facility must be planned down to the smallest detail to ensure this happens and this starts with design. A poorly designed plan can have a knock-on effect on the long-term performance of the facility.

Images courtesy of Munday + Cramer


Right from the start of the design planning process, architects need to ensure they are compliant and adhering to the regulations set out by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The body oversees the entire healthcare sector, from GP surgeries and hospitals to other clinical spaces.

The CQC have set guidelines that architects can use to understand the basic needs and principles of designing healthcare spaces. For example, in Regulation 15, for instance, it’s outlined that healthcare premises should:

  • Provide ease of access.
  • Include adequate support facilities and amenities.
  • Be large enough to accommodate the proposed number of patients.
  • Be appropriately located.

Images courtesy of Munday + Cramer

Patient experience

Although the ultimate goal for architects is to design a space that prioritises patient’s health, their comfort and general patient experience is also vital for these kinds of facilities. Often hospitals and doctor’s surgeries can be quite anxiety inducing for people, so designing a space that minimises this should also be considered throughout the planning stage.

The first thing that can be implemented is encouraging a focus on spatial planning. Of course, in the times of the pandemic and social distancing, this has been a huge element of planning, but it will no doubt be something that’s here to stay for healthcare spaces.

“ The first thing that can be implemented is encouraging a focus on spatial planning. 

Hospitals and doctor’s surgeries have a heavy footfall with patients constantly in and out of the door, meaning they can sometimes feel very hectic and crowded. To improve patient experience,architects are taking this into consideration and incorporating things such as open-plan waiting rooms and large courtyards.

Interiors can also help to ease the feeling of overcrowding, reducing anxiety by giving the impression as space is more open, which can be considered during the design process.

Images courtesy of Munday + Cramer

Post-pandemic design

There can be a lot to learn about healthcare design in reflection of the events in the past year. The pandemic has shaken things up beyond belief and forced change to happen quickly.

Overall, it’s changed our behaviour and the way we interact both in and with healthcare spaces. It’s meant architects have had to adapt at the same pace, accommodating the new needs and requirements.

This forced change has likely implemented improvements that will benefit the healthcare space as it prioritises hygiene, acts to minimise the spread of viruses and provides flexibility – ultimately, goals we should be reaching anyway.

“ We have also now seen how versatile healthcare spaces can be. 

We have also now seen how versatile healthcare spaces can be, with spaces being multifunctional. For example, cosmetic surgery theatres being made into makeshift intensive care units, and emergency rooms used as testing areas, this will now be something that design needs to take into consideration moving forward.

On the whole, healthcare architecture is constantly evolving with some of the biggest changes happening over the past few months. Instead of users adapting to changing demands, design is keeping up with user demands. There has been a lot learnt with a greater emphasis on patient experience paired with its primary function of prioritising welfare.

If you’d like to find out more about Munday + Cramer and their architectural design work, visit their website here.