Finish standards without the panic | Part two

Myths about finish standards

Mentioning finish standards during the design process can send a shudder down the spine, largely due to various misunderstandings and myths we have come to believe. On to the myths:

What are the top myths about finish standards in healthcare design?

  1. STANDARD FINISHES MEAN STANDARD DESIGN
    Not true. Standards are a framework, they shouldn’t limit creativity. Start the conversation with the development of strong and clear guiding principles and vision. Engage in a team-based approach to develop an experiential story for patients and staff that reflects brand and creates a unique atmosphere for healing and wellness. Finishes should support this story. Standards can be a starting point. If a strong story is developed, there is room and reason to add to the standards.
  1. STANDARDS ARE SET BY ONE PERSON
    To make standards work, it takes a team-based approach.  Administrators, users, marketing personnel, facilities managers, infection control officers and board members all have an important and unique perspective. The design team should be able to sift through various ideas to develop standards that represent both brand and optimize maintenance.
  1. STANDARDS MEAN THERE’S NO DESIGN WORK TO DO
    Standards can be adjusted to account for regional differences, unique patient populations and project types. For instance, aging eyes see color differently; women’s units may be different than pediatric units. Naturally, large medical campuses with groups of buildings represent a different kind of challenge. Careful design within extensive projects means striking a balance between expressing that common thread that ties the brand together and developing special experiences.
  1. STANDARDS OFFER FEW OPTIONS FOR COLOR AND FINISH AND ARE OFTEN THE CHEAPEST ALTERNATIVE
    Beyond cost, there are many equally important factors including quality, material content, value, cleanability and durability.  Even the quality of client service from the manufacturer figures into the selection of materials.
  1. STANDARDS ARE FIXED
    Standards in design must remain flexible to support competitive bidding and to leave room for innovation, storytelling and the development of special, unique experience for patients and staff while fitting within the context of campus-wide sense of place.
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Photo: Tom Rossiter

 

What characterizes a strong design strategy and finish standards package?
Design should clearly convey brand identity and should always tell a story. To support this objective and develop an easy maintenance plan and consistent experience, the following five criteria should be considered:

  1. FLEXIBILITY:  Standards are flexible and amendable based on emerging evidence based design principals, improved products and enhanced experiences on a project-by-project basis.
  2. VALUE:  Selections encourage competitive bidding for best value and cost effective solutions.
  3. IMPACT:  The most durable and cleanable finishes can be made standard,  but if they are not carefully applied and tied to a story, they won’t last.  Remember, a well designed space that people love and believe in is a preserved space.
  4. CONSISTENCY:  Standards should not encourage standard design rather they encourage consistency in experience and flow.
  5. MEMORABLE:  Selections must be functional, durable and lasting but just as important, they should support design concept and enhance architecture to contribute to a memorable experience.

Overall, standards offer a framework and a place to start.  Pick the right design partner who understands the careful subtlety of knitting together brand, evidence-based design strategies, and beauty and who has the experience to address infection control, safety, cleanability and durability to develop a design that ‘fits within the established branded environment to enhance the patient experience.

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