Green-Roofed to Speed Healing

Places / February 9, 2011

Los Angeles-based CO Architects has designed a new hospital, now under construction in Escondido, near San Diego, to improve healing by orienting patients toward rooftops and terraces planted with indigenous trees, shrubs and groundcover.

“It’s a replacement hospital for one downtown,” said Frances Moore, associate principal and project architect for Palomar Medical Center West.  “It allows us to implement all the best practice strategies that have been proven to improve healing.”

Evidence shows that by bringing views of nature to the patient, healing occurs faster.  So CO Architects designed one-and-a-half acres of planted areas on the roof of the 740,000 square-foot building, with green terraces on each of its seven patient floors.

“Every floor has balconies, ground cover and trees, from the surrounding landscape up to the top,” Moore said.  “We’re creating a modern garden hospital.  Knowing that it needed to be a high-rise, we wanted it to be a place where patients had access to the outdoors.”

The new center is designed to marry nature to technology to get benefits of both for faster healing.

Patient rooms are oriented in the same way, instead of back-to-back, so that staff members know exactly where everything is from room to room, which reduces errors.  Nursing stations are located outside each room, instead of in a centralized location, for rapid response.  And each room is acuity adaptable, with the capability of stepping down to a lower level of care, so there’s no need to transfer a patient from room to room.  Moreover, a patient’s care team remains the same at all times.

But it’s the green surroundings that may be the most striking.  “The patient wing is covered with green, drought-resistant, regenerating and self-sustaining succulents,” she said.  “It provides a rolling green foreground – a roof that appears to be set within the hills that are off in the distance.”

It’s scheduled for completion in spring 2012.

For more on CO Architects, go to

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Mike Welton

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