The Health Benefits of Water Features for Healthcare Venues

By Chris Roy

Enhancing the well-being of everyone who enters a medical facility is of the utmost importance to healthcare property stakeholders, as is the ability to promote the features which do so in a way that sets it apart from the competition.

As the pandemic progresses into 2022 and continues to challenge our well-being, healthcare facility developers, owners and operators are increasingly seeking amenities that enhance the physical and mental health of patients, providers and building staff.

Creating beautiful environments is an ideal solution, and water features play an important role in biophilic design, the science of introducing nature back into our lives for therapeutic benefits.

As a leading design/build firm for water features, rockwork and themed environments, Outside the Lines, Inc (OTL) has witnessed the many benefits of installing water features at healthcare facilities. Here are a few ways we’ve seen water features encourage physical and mental health at these properties, while simultaneously beautifying and adding value to them.

  1. Water features have a positive impact on the body.

Being near water has a host of beneficial effects on physical and mental health. Studies have even shown reduced risk of premature death and obesity among people who live close to water.

Adding fountains, streams, and ponds to medical facilities can have a healthful impact, helping patients heal faster and enhancing the property’s mission. The way these features are designed and built can influence physical and mental health in a myriad of positive ways.

For example, OTL worked with AHBE Landscape Architect, Joma Design Studio, Frank Webb Architects and Hensel Phelps Construction Co. to deliver a wellness garden at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Supporting the hospital’s healing mission was a primary goal. It was critical to the hospital’s ownership team that no water from the fountain that OTL constructed was atomized, for fear of potentially spreading pathogens. To address this need, the OTL team tested and ultimately installed a small bubbler nozzle into each round basin in the fountain that creates a gentle ripple effect and a pleasant babbling sound without creating any water spray or splash.

  1. Water features provide psychological relief.

It’s no secret that water provides calming sounds and sights that help us all de-stress, which is especially desirable during this unprecedented time.

There is considerable evidence that proximity to water is relaxing and helps relieve anxiety (perhaps even making a sub-conscious connection to our time in the womb). In fact, the sensations of water create a “blue mind” that is beneficial to both our mental and physical selves.

Proximity to water is, as mentioned in the opening, an important element in biophilic design, the practice of connecting people and nature within our built environments and communities. Water features set this practice in motion to effect a positive psychological impact.

  1. Water features generate negative ions.

Negative ions are molecules floating in the air which have a negative electrical charge. Much research has been done into the positive effects that contact with negative ions can have one our bodily tissues, DNA, and one our overall mental well-being.

In nature, negative ions are generated by ultraviolet rays from the sun, lightning strikes, and the movement of water (through a mechanism known as the Lenard effect). Water features are a great way to safely and reliably replicate the latter process in a more controlled environment.

Research into exposure to negative ions supports benefits including reduction of symptoms of depression, improvements in cognitive performance, positive influence over some systems within the human body, and also an enhancement of localized antimicrobial activity.

From promoting physical healing and psychological relief to cleaning the air, the list of reasons to incorporate water elements into healthcare facilities continues to grow. They bring tremendous psychological advantages for everyone at the property – as well as the people with whom they interact.

Chris Roy is Director of Creative Design for Outside the Lines, Inc., a design-build themed construction company that specializes in creating one-of-a-kind rockwork, water features and themed environments for projects around the globe.