Rethinking the Healthcare Facilities: The Role of the Buffer Space.

Rethinking the Healthcare Facilities: The Role of the Buffer Space.

Publication date: Jan 23, 2024

A working group conducted a survey on the use of the principle of buffer space (BS), which in case of emergencies, could benefit healthcare settings. The aim of the preliminary investigation is to define new research lines in hospitals’ functional design. The global experience of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted challenges faced by hospitals when responding promptly to emergencies, including spatial reorganization and suspension of ordinary medical activities for ensuring adequate management of the emergency surge of patients. The group designed questionnaires to be administered to healthcare staff and healthcare designers aimed at understanding varied conceptions and features of BSs. Content across the two surveys overlapped significantly, allowing for direct comparisons of responses, while also including tailored questions in relation to the respective experience and skills of the two groups of respondents. 102 healthcare professionals and 56 designers took part to the survey. Analysis of the responses permitted for initial recommendations regarding BS typology including (a) proximity to the emergency department (ED), intensive care units (ICUs), and inpatient wards (IWs); (b) location within hospitals but separate from other medical areas; (c) need for independent access; (d) organizational and spatial features similar to ED, ICUs, and IWs; (e) existing as a fully flexible operational space; and (f) BS bed capacity to be approximately 12% of ED beds. Although the analysis is related to the Italian context, the expansion of this preliminary research to alternate healthcare facilities and geographic areas is necessary for reaching a wide consensus by different professionals on this field. It serves as a starting point for future investigations regarding the implementation of BS in hospital settings.

Concepts Keywords
Designers buffer space
Herd flexibility in healthcare
Inpatient functional program
Italian hospital design
Rethinking management strategies


Type Source Name
disease MESH emergencies
disease MESH COVID-19 pandemic
drug DRUGBANK Etoperidone

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