Ph.D. student tells design blogger about nature’s healing powers

There’s an unmistakable link between nature and wellness for people everywhere, whether they’re at work, at home, or in a healthcare facility, said Naomi Sachs, a Ph.D. architecture student at Texas A&M’s College of Architecture, in an interview posted on an popular architecture blog.

Sachs, founding director of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network, a knowledge base and gathering space about healing gardens, restorative landscapes and other green spaces that promote health and well-being, told Angela Mazzi on her blog "The Patron Saint of Architecture" about some of the many studies showing people’s benefits from experiencing nature.

The interview was, said Mazzi on her Twitter and Facebook pages, the all-time top post on her blog.

In one study, said Sachs, sick days, turnover, stress and the ability to concentrate measurably improved when workers were provided access to nature.

Nurses who had a view of gardens, she said, were better able to concentrate and had less long-term stress.

“When you think abut the fact that it can cost around $60,000 to train each new hire, the economic benefit of providing access to nature is huge,” said Sachs.

She also mentioned former Texas A&M architecture faculty member Roger Ulrich’s groundbreaking research documenting less need for pain medication, improved patient satisfaction, faster recovery rates, and many other examples of improved outcomes for patients and staff, where there are views of nature.

The initial cost and lifetime maintenance of providing access to nature, whether through exterior landscaping, windows, interior gardens, atria, or even potted plants, she said, is justified with the return on investment brought by its benefits.

Sachs is collaborating with renowned scholar Clare Cooper Marcus, Professor Emerita in Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, on a book with the working title “Therapeutic Landscapes:  An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces.”

“The heart of the book will be design guidelines that are applicable to all patient populations and settings, as well as guidelines for specific users, such as hospice, cancer care and children,” said Sachs. “We will be drawing on many examples of built works to illustrate theories and practice.”

Sachs is developing her Texas A&M dissertation topic, which she said might focus on an aspect of the affect of access to nature on nurses in a healthcare setting.

posted January 24, 2013