How this Dubai hospital makes patients feel they're in a boutique hotel

While our understanding of how lighting affects health increases by the day, ironically, hospitals and clinics still aren’t generally known for installing people-friendly lighting. Functional fittings are far more common. But the brand new 100-bed Prime Hospital in Dubai’s Garhoud district has been built with the comfort of patients in mind. The front-of-house spaces have the look and feel of a boutique hotel, which was created using cove lighting, feature pendants and contemporary finishes.

Lighting and acoustics consultancy Acoulite, working with interior design practice DWP and specialist healthcare consultant Hosmac, assisted in the development, design and implementation of the lighting throughout the project.

The circular fluorescent fittings have been received well by patients, and consume only 55W

‘Because it’s a private hospital, patient rooms and some of the corridors had to have the feel of a hotel,’ explains Jaspal Bal, senior account manager at Acoulite.

That means you do see a few incandescent pendants in the reception area and other customer-facing areas around the hospital, adding a golden glow to help create the ambience the designers were after. ‘We have 51 huge pendants and a similar number of small pendants that are lit with incandescent. It’s inefficient, so we only use it for aesthetic purposes and not as a primary light source,’ says Sreenath Sivadasan, an electrical engineer at consultancy Hosmac.

The primary light sources in the hospital are LED and fluorescent. ‘When we began the project, the fixtures were incandescent and fluorescent, combined,’ says Sivadasan. ‘Then we progressed and took out some fluorescent fixtures, such as the strip lighting in the corridors.’


Budget constraints

All the cove lighting in the hospital’s corridors is now based on LED sources. Bal recalls: ‘Instead of just putting in an LED strip we put in a profile with a diffuser so it’s easier to clean and stays colour consistent. Plus, it manages the heat.’

Patient rooms, storage rooms and basements are lit with fluorescent light sources. ‘The fittings that look like doughnuts in the ceiling of the patient rooms were received really well. They’re fluorescent but have got a really good output at 55W,’ says Bal.

The demanding design requirements presented Acoulite with a challenge. ‘We had a budget to meet but also aesthetic requirements to consider, so there were a lot of recalculations involved,’ says Bal. ‘We advised on lux levels to make sure we achieved what was required for a hospital unit without compromising the look and feel of the interiors that DWP came up with.’ Glare was another problem that had to be avoided, and Bal also helped make sure thatthere was enough space for the cove lighting in the corridors.


Challenging environment

The lighting in the hospital has been equipped with controls in places where it’s possible, but as Sivadasan explains, there are specific rules and considerations to bear in mind when lighting a healthcare environment.

The principal light sources used throughout the hospital are LED and fluorescent

‘In a hospital you cannot just switch off the light anywhere. A hospital is a place where you might have an activity in the middle of the night. So operating rooms can never have their lights controlled fully; you have to be able to bypass the control system if you have an acute case at night, so we have to provide light switches so you can turn on the light.’

The light in the basement is controlled with a timer so it will be dimmed when nobody is there. ‘Basements cannot be 100 per cent turned off, they will be lit at least 50 per cent. But from the ground up we can use a system to sense occupancy. Some rooms, such as consultancy rooms, won’t be occupied all the time,’ says Sivadasan.


Controlling corridors

The corridors are the big money saver: ‘In corridors, you can have control and turn off the lighting when there is no activity, so you can save energy there. Corridors form at least 20 per cent of the entire area, so it’s a huge amount of energy we are saving.’

Although the comfort of the patients and the look and feel has dictated the design of the hospital, energy savings do matter and will matter even more in the near future. ‘The local authority supplies power and water. They have come up with certain criteria for energy conservation, so we have to have some kind of control. Right now we don’t have hard-and-fast rules about which areas have to be controlled, but it’s part of the green programme that utility providers are bringing in.’ That means more energy-efficient lighting is guaranteed to find its way into Dubai’s buildings. ‘Right now we are phasing out fluorescent,’ Sivadasan says, ‘so we’ll be using more LED in future.’

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