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Healthcare Architecture Designs: Vancouver vs. Toronto

By John MacSween, Director, Parkin Architects Limited

Canada’s geography is highly diverse, thus requiring important differences in architecture. These distinctions are especially evident when comparing healthcare architecture designs in Vancouver versus Toronto.

Environmental Impact on Healthcare Designs

The weather and climate in Ontario and British Columbia are significantly different, particularly when comparing the city of Vancouver and the lower mainland of B.C. to northern Ontario. The climate in B.C. is much more temperate than it is in other parts of the country.

For example, it seldom snows in Vancouver. This provides certain freedoms in the designs of our buildings, which we don’t have in other parts of the country. In Vancouver healthcare projects, we are able to implement glass canopies and outdoor fabric shelters and structures that wouldn’t withstand the environment in other regions in Canada.

Connection with the natural environment is a focus in all of our healthcare designs, but this is especially true in B.C. There is an even greater emphasis on outdoor views and access to outdoor spaces for patients and staff – particularly patient bedrooms and treatment spaces. These spaces cannot always be incorporated at the ground level; in many cases we will  include roof terraces and gardens in the design to respond to this requirement.

Cultural Influences in Vancouver and Across British Columbia

Many cultural influences are also incorporated into architectural designs in Vancouver and across B.C. The native population has a significant impact on the community, and these influences are recognized through building form, colour and articulation.

Certain rooms within healthcare facilities are often dedicated to ceremonies specific to native populations. For example, smudging rooms for end-of-life ceremonies.

In addition, the B.C. government has put an initiative in place called the Wood First Act, which encourages the use of native wood species in design and construction. Although wood is not a product we use in clinical settings (due to infection prevention and control), it can be used on the exterior and in public common spaces. If you look at the Surrey Critical Care Tower, for example, you will see massive timber structures in the main lobby. This is a trend that is specific to B.C., setting its designs apart from the rest of the country.

You will also see these design trends applied to some of our more recent B.C. projects. We were recently awarded the Joseph & Rosalie Segal Family Health Centre – Vancouver’s newest mental health and addictions treatment facility – at Vancouver General Hospital. We have also been selected for the final design and construction of two 30-bed inpatient units in the Polson tower.

Setting Our Vancouver Designs Apart 

In every project, we design the building to suit the needs and requirements of the end-users or occupants, as opposed to forcing the users to accommodate their processes in a generic building design. We’re firm believers in the “form follows function” approach to design.

Our best skill is listening. This is something we truly practise in every interaction. We listen to our clients’ requests, and work with them to find the best solutions to their requirements. We help our clients educate us on how to create the best product to meet their needs.

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