Why do modern hospitals still suffer from underperforming workspaces?

In my more than 25 years as a healthcare planner and workplace consultant, I’ve helped multiple healthcare organizations plan and program new hospitals. With each new project, I’m amazed and inspired by the attention given to patient care and clinical delivery. At the same time, something is often missing in these planning sessions. For all the time devoted to clinical planning, comparatively little is given to the needs of the people who staff our hospitals. It’s as though we are focused on optimizing only a portion of the building for its users and not on the effectiveness of the parts of the hospital set aside for staff to complete their administrative work, collaborate and—especially important today—recuperate.

The Impact of Poor Workplace Planning in Hospitals

This lack of attention can have real consequences. Burnout is already tremendously high in the healthcare sector. Space designed to support the whole health and wellbeing of staff is one way hospitals can address their current recruitment and retention challenges.

Inattention to staff work needs and styles also makes for inefficient use of space and resources. Many hospitals continue to follow outdated workplace formulas that assign staff a set amount of space based on their title and not their true work needs. For example, healthcare staff often are allocated private offices and other dedicated spaces that can go unused for up to six to 10 hours a day (30-50 hours a week!) as they fulfill their essential clinical roles and other non-administrative work. While these spaces sit unused, there is a lack of other types of spaces hospital staff can use to collaborate or decompress. Further, individually allocated spaces tend to be much larger than is necessary in today’s modern world of workplace planning where technology and newer furniture design make for greater efficiencies in smaller spaces. My clients outside of healthcare would be shocked by this inefficient use of real estate and resources. Yet, in hospitals, this type of wastefulness is all too common.

So, what can we do about it? How can we make hospital workspaces more efficient, productive, supportive and responsive to staff needs? The answer, I believe, lies in drawing lessons from workplace planning in the corporate and business world. That planning begins with understanding the “Three P’s.”

A Solution in the Three P’s: People, Process, Placemaking

As a workplace consultant, one of the first things I do with a new client is to get a sense of the different people within an organization and the processes in which they work. With that understanding, I can then work with the client on placemaking, or creating the space types that meet the needs of an organization and its people. Here’s how the Three P’s could be applied to hospital workplace strategy:

People – What are the divergent staff needs that the workplace must support? The initial stages of planning and ideation in healthcare spaces should encompass engaging with a hospital’s staff to explore who they are, what will help them thrive, and what kinds of choices will relieve their anxieties and support their wellbeing in the workplace.

Process – What do people require to do their best work? Once we have a good understanding of the hospital staff, we can look at what they need to complete their work within their non-clinical workspaces. By looking at people’s work process and preferences—such as independent vs. collaborative work; in-person vs. remote work; patient-facing vs. administrative work; desk-based vs. mobile work—we begin to get a sense of space needs and function. For example, after two years at home during the pandemic, who and how many staff are coming back to the office? Will in-person staff need their own desk, or can they share a workstation? What types of amenities or collaboration spaces do they require? What technology? Answers to these questions create a clearer picture of the workplace needs of an organization.

Placemaking – How can we create spaces that show we value employees? The final step is to take the data and stories collected from our people and process research and use it to define the types and amount of space required. The goal here is to create a variety of space choices—from open to private—that enable people to not just complete their jobs but to do so in a way that helps them thrive personally and professionally.  

Results and Next Steps

By applying the Three P’s to their staff workspaces, hospitals can cater to the whole health and needs of their employees just as they do for their patients. I have seen this result in hospital employees who are happier in their work, more appreciative of their employer and better caregivers to their patients.

The Three P’s can also make hospital workplaces more efficient by cutting down on underutilized spaces and freeing up valuable real estate for clinical services. Going back to the example of the individually allocated spaces, smart workplace planning is not only about how much workspace you provide employees. It’s ensuring the space you do provide fully addresses employees’ personal and professional needs. The business case is that this approach can also be less expensive and require less real estate, making it a win-win for both staff and employers.

Want additional information on the Three P’s or how workplace planning can apply to hospitals? Connect with me on LinkedIn or shoot me an email at susan.chang@hok.com.

This article is re-published from HOK with permission. It previously appeared on LinkedIn

What to ask before hiring an Interior Designer

At my firm, Sanura Design, we love educated clients- and curious clients. An integral part of our process is ensuring our clients have all the information they need- and that includes knowing the design process, permit process, construction process, and everything in between.

So… what do you need to know before you hire me or another design professional?

1: Personality isn’t everything- but fit is really important

Interior design is an incredibly personal job- especially when designing your home. As your interior designer I know things like: what’s in your bedtime table, how you arrange your undies, what you have for breakfast, and your morning bathroom habits. Most of which I bet your friends don’t know. That means when you search for an interior designer you’re searching for someone you can be open with, and work with in their professional capacity. How do you know your interior designer is right for you (after checking qualifications, experience, etc)?  How do you know you’ll be friendly with someone?

2: Are they qualified?

Have a good look at what you’d like to accomplish for your project and what your goals are. Are you simply freshening a space by changing furniture, paint colours, lighting fixtures? That’s something you can hire an interior designer OR decorator for. Are you moving walls, changing your HVAC, electrical, etc, adding an addition, or generally altering your actual home in some way? That’s where you need a qualified professional- a registered interior designer is a regulated profession in Ontario where you know exactly what we need to know to earn our title of “interior designer” and we answer to our organization when we aren’t standing up to our code of ethics. Other design professionals do have extensive experience in renovations and may have a comprehensive skill set, if you hire someone like this the next step will be a very important one.

3: Check their references

Whether you’re hiring us, another registered interior designer, or another design professional, a very important step is asking for and checking a few references. You’re looking for past clients that have undergone similar work to your project, and a bonus can sometimes be hearing from other professionals, like contractors or consultants. You want to have a personal conversation with them and get a good idea for what their experience is like, exactly what the person you may be hiring did for them and what challenges came up. You need to check multiple references as this gives you a much fuller picture of who you’ll be working with.

4: Are they insured?

That’s their problem right? Professionals who do good work don’t need liability insurance- they never get sued.
Incorrect! Liability insurance isn’t just to cover a professional from unhappy clients, it’s also to cover the project from unforeseen circumstances- like a defective product, an incorrectly installed finish, or the incorrect product being installed (among many many other things). Mistakes happen, even with the best professionals, and true professionals carry this protection for themselves, their employees, and their projects.

5: Do they have a contract?

Contracts are incredibly important to your renovation. Both your contractor AND your interior designer should have detailed contracts for you to sign. For an interior designer they should include things like: fees/payment schedule, scope of work, details for breaking the contract, and clarify each sides responsibilities- to name a few. These contracts protect YOU the most- and I can’t emphasize that enough. If something goes wrong during the project and you didn’t sign a contract- you have no options and no protection. The longer and more detailed your professional’s contract is, the more confident you should feel in hiring them. This means they’re openly laying out exactly how they work and ensuring you understand the full process before you sign up for a project with them. A good professional is also always willing to go through their contract with you in detail to help you feel more comfortable.


Whew! That was a technical one. I’m sure I missed something (we don’t want an essay on the subject!), but it will serve as a great rule of thumb to ensure you get the right professional for your project.

Do you have any questions on what the qualifications of a registered interior designer ARE or would like to find one in your area? Check out the ARIDO website.

If you want to chat with us about your project and see if we’re a good fit for you? Get in touch with us.

This post first appeared on Sanura Design | Full Service Interior Design.

An Interior Designer’s Mini Guide To Bar Design

A bar by any other name is still a bar.  It can be an espresso bar, a wine bar, or maybe a sports bar.  Stand-alone or as part of a kitchen. It can be dry or wet.  Which one would you prefer?

Dry Bar – No Plumbing Involved

A dry bar is simple to set up, especially where space is an issue. It can be a bar cart or a dedicated nook with a cabinet and counter (below right). Bar accessories are a definite must.

Wet Bar – H2O Required

You can modify an open-plan kitchen where the island becomes the bar (below left).  Or, you can construct one in the basement as part of your very own entertainment complex, or a spa bathroom, or bring it outside to create your own mini-resort, where you can mix a batch of frozen margaritas while you’re flipping steaks.

Anatomy Of A Bar – The Basics 

Put all your ideas on paper and just like the pros, let’s use ergonomic standards and proper measurements for optimum bar design.

  • Bar Height: 42 inches to 45 inches high. Great for sitting or standing.
  • Sitting At The Bar: 8in. deep for your knees. The more the better.
  • A special touch? Include a small hook for hanging a jacket or a purse.
  • Body Width: 24 inches per seat. 30 inches is better and feels less crowded. Stand-up or sit down, a bar stool is a great prop. Bonus points for stools that go up and down.
  • Foot Rail: 7 inches to 9 inches off the floor. A classy touch and appreciated by people with back problems.
  • Bar Top: 16 inches to 20 inches wide. Materials should be sturdy and waterproof. Add panache through colour and pattern.
  • Behind The Bar: Install a 36 inch high counter to mix cocktails, slice lemons, set bottles or install a sink. Under this counter make sure you have a waste receptacle, a microwave oven and mini fridge for snacks and ice.
  • Back Of The Bar: The highest reachable shelf should be 69 inches to 72 inches high. Above that is storage.
Bar counter with blue lit backsplash.

Other important items:

  • Back Bar Shelves: Needs to fit the tallest and widest bottles you stock.
  • Flooring: A wet bar gets messy, so a resilient floor is necessary.
  • Electrical, Light Switches And A Sound System: Party central needs power, ambience and great music.
  • Building Codes: Check them. Safety comes first.

The Extras – The Ultimate Pro Details 

  • Beer Taps: Keep in mind that flushing the system is mandatory. Too much work? Stick to bottled beer.
  • Wine Fridge: For chilling any bottled liquid beverage.
  • Ice Maker: Never run out of ice!
  • Espresso Machine: Caffeine is always required.

The Wow Factor

Here are a few tips and trends to impress:

  • Vary Your Lighting: Add style through statement sconces or titillate with LED backlighting to shelving (see below), a foot rest and bar front lip. Provide recessed general lighting overhead and add pendants to enhance your theme. Don’t forget dimmer switches for a signature mood.
  • Mix-up Your Finishes: Here’s where you can use fanciful woods, metallics and statement tiles. Think textures, patterns and colour.
  • Use Glassware and Bottles As Decor: A wine wall with fancy labels can show off your sophistication. Lots of glasses of different shapes and sizes can sparkle with strategic lighting placement.
  • Floating Shelves: Display your favourite spirits or memorabilia.
  • Television: Root for your home team in style.

And, remember no matter what age, shape, size, or planet – sitting or standing – let’s make sure your bar can accommodate everyone who wants to join in the festivities.

So use this Interior Designer’s Guide wisely and let’s make very merry fun.

All project images from Dolores Pian.  

This Brampton dispensary is all about the buds and the bees

Hibuzz Cannabis is a new and rising star in retail cannabis. They are a family-owned dispensary chain proudly located in Brampton, ON. With a love of their local community and a desire to create a great experience for their customers, Hibuzz Cannabis was born.

Three years after recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada, dispensaries are their own subset of retail outlets, which must meet certain space requirements in order to operate in Canada. As a Registered Interior Designer, I worked with the Hibuzz team to create a space that met the local laws while upholding their brand.

In Ontario, cannabis businesses must be separate from all other businesses, and cannot include an outdoor area. They also can’t be accessed from other businesses or in a shared retail space, and the area where the cannabis is stored must prohibit the public from entering.

Finally, cannabis and accessories must be displayed in a way that they cannot be seen by a minor, even from outside the store, so many stores have creative solutions to cover windows and have special screens to prevent the product from being seen from outdoors.

The vision for the store design was to offer an accessible and welcoming shopping environment to a community where cannabis is legal and regulated. The cash area uses simple wood joinery and soft lighting for effect, displays are clear and open to offer customers a seamless experience.

As a family-owned business, budget and timelines were very tight. Overall, a fantastic store was created and the brand has big plans for more locations

As Technology Continues to Boom, so do Tech Companies

PagerDuty is one of the world’s leading digital operations management platforms for business. They help their clients prevent and resolve business-impacting incidents and deliver exceptional digital experiences. As a fast-moving and growing company, PagerDuty had outgrown their previous location on Queen Street West in Toronto and started their hunt for a new space to accommodate their growing team and business.

PagerDuty retained SGH as the prime designer to help lead this transition to their new home office. With the technology sector booming, being one of Toronto’s fastest-growing industries, PagerDuty was looking to remain ahead of the game for employee attraction and wanted to create a space that was conducive to open collaboration, team building, and overall employee wellness.

PagerDuty’s culture and brand were used as key drivers in the design of their new 24,000 square foot office. The brand-focused space was designed with standardized benching stations, enclosed and open meeting spaces equipped with the latest technology and named after Toronto landmarks and a large lunchroom with a games area that supported a town hall function as well. A portion of the space was designed for sub-tenant purposes which PagerDuty could take back in the future as the company grows and requires the extra square footage.

The finished space turned out absolutely beautiful! Pops of colour throughout the new office complement PagerDuty’s personality and brand, while the Toronto landmark named meeting spaces bring the city into this forward-thinking company.

What We Really Do: Drawings Edition

Sure, you need drawings for a renovation (or maybe you didn’t know that?), but what are they really?

Drawings are an opportunity to try out the design and work out the kinks in a project before it’s built.

There I said it. Shortest blog ever!

Ok, ok, so maybe you have some follow-up questions to that. If you didn’t know you needed drawings to do a renovation (assuming you don’t need a permit- because we’re not going to entertain the idea that you’re passing up the opportunity to protect your biggest investment– for some of you literally- to save a bit of time or money). “But my brother did a renovation and his contractor did the renovation without hiring a designer and it worked out fine.”

Let me ask you some follow-up questions for your brother: Did everything come out right the first time? Did it come out exactly as he had expected? Even better one: How many times did he get a call from the contractor to make a decision or come show them how he wanted something done?

Hmm. So maybe didn’t come out as well as we’d all like? This is not the contractor’s fault. Read that over again, please. They are not clairvoyant, nor are they typically trained in any way to be a decorator or designer, or interior designer. This means someone needs to tell them how they want things, and if no one writes any of that down, it needs to ALL be conveyed in person, which is a LOT of time. You might already know this if you’ve DIY-d a renovation without some kind of professional help.

So maybe these drawing things are starting to make more sense?

I can tell the best contractors immediately when I meet them and we discuss construction drawings and how we do them at Sanura Design (and how a Registered Interior Designer is trained to do them, period). We usually bond over having to construct something with no drawings and some gestures or being asked to help design a space with the clients when it isn’t what they signed up for.

So what’s our special sauce? It’s actually really simple if a lot of hard work and experience.

We document everything. I’m not exaggerating in the least- a master bathroom project might have 7 drawings attached to it. That sounds like a lot, but it’s amazing for the contractor (and honestly if I wanted to spend most of my day on a job site, I would have become a contractor)- they know exactly what tiles we’re putting in where, how the tiles are laid out, where the plumbing fixtures are going, where to install the bathroom accessories, all the details of the custom millwork, where to hang the mirror, what lighting fixtures are going in and exactly where to install them, and the list goes on!.

An example of how detailed our bathroom drawings are above- we draw the actual tile layouts to any difficulties with installation or tile size can be discovered in advance

Imagine how easy it is to price a project when you know exactly what’s going in- and typically this means better pricing for the homeowner. You know exactly how much your project will cost before anything is ordered and anything is demolished or constructed.

Remember when I said drawings allow Interior Designers to test out ideas and work out the kinks in advance? They also allow us to change the scope of work/design to suit your budget better without wasting time and money during the construction process. Drawings also enable us to collaborate with contractors during the design process to get budgetary feedback and their expertise.

So hopefully you’re coming around. Congratulations! Now you’re well informed enough to decide if you need to hire an interior designer or if you’re happier doing this yourself. That’s always my goal!

And if you just decided you’d rather not take on the full-time job of managing and designing your own renovation, you know where to find us!

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How does an Interior Designer save you time?

If you’ve been following my video journey, you’ll recall the video called Fabric Sourcing and You outlining why it’s not as easy as you think to pick out the right fabric for your sofa. That was a LOT of fabric and wallpaper, plus there was a lot more I didn’t show you on the other side of the showroom, AND the tables you see behind me have fabric and wallpaper under them. Does sorting through that fill you with dread? Well me too!

That is if I didn’t have the training, intuition, and experience that tells me what I’m looking for. AND a professional who is a partner in my project- who knows where everything is and can point me in the right direction(s).

This means what may take you an entire day of exhausting searching, takes me an hour or so to get the main choices sorted, then another small amount of time once I get the samples delivered to pick out the best one(s).

What about kitchens? Melissa, you say, I can just visit a kitchen place and pick that out myself? Hmm, well, have you or someone else ever spent a few weekends going to a few kitchen places because they didn’t quite see what they liked, and by the end probably didn’t even KNOW what they liked?

Or maybe that friend was you on a previous project. I have the knowledge and experience (and the deep understanding of you and your family) to curate the finishes in a much short amount of time, and then present you with a couple of choices you’ll like.

Let’s talk tiles. I have a favourite place to source tiles. SS Tile and Stone in Etobicoke. That’s because it has SUCH a huge selection. Have you ever walked into a tile store and been immediately overwhelmed? What about visited multiple tile stores and been even more confused? You aren’t alone!

This is a huge reason to hire me to help you when you technically could handle choosing the finishes yourself- who wants to give up their nights and weekends to do that? You’ve worked hard to save the money to do the renovation you’re doing, why should you spend so much of your precious time sifting through mountains of choices when I can make it a fun, pleasurable experience?

All of these decisions for a kitchen could be presented to you in 30 minutes and we would have the finishes chosen. 30. Minutes. Versus nights and weekends spent selecting them yourselves- and dealing with five or more different opinions on how you should do your kitchen. Moreover, almost none of those professionals have had the proper time to get to know you, what you LOVE, and how the space would best serve you.

So, why not keep your evenings and weekends for YOU? And leave the design process to me. You’ll just get a space you love, a relaxing fun process, a project on time and on budget, and your precious time back.

This post previously appeared on Sanura Design, “How Valuable is Your Time?

This government office stands out, instead of blending in

Gone are the days of formulaic government offices, with uninspired gray surroundings for employees, and thank goodness for that!

Using an activity-based design methodology, the LWG design team developed four floors of light-filled space designed within the auspices of the Government of Canada Workplace Guidelines. Using affordable materials in innovative ways allowed us to deliver an economical space that is not short on design details.

Baltic birch plywood figures prominently throughout the space, along with key pops of colour. This space provides a menu of options to support the work that takes place throughout a typical day, including areas for heads-down tasks to spaces for active, boisterous collaboration.

The LWG Design Team for this project included Marc Letellier, ARIDO; Rachel Burdick, ARIDO and Ashley Lepine, Intern, ARIDO.

Opening up room for collaboration

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce approached LWG Principal Marc Letellier with a challenge. In redesigning their office space, they wanted him to create a space that would remove the silos within their organization and create a variety of settings to encourage interaction and collaboration. The former space was intensely enclosed, with a high degree of private offices.

Interior Designer: Marc Letellier, ARIDO
Design Firm: LWG Architectural Interiors
Photographer: Kevin Bélanger

Rebalancing the distribution of space was a key to the success for this client. Space has been opened up to create an interactive work environment, both in the open office area (unified by a single linear LED light fixture) to a large reception zone and adjacent lounge used for hospitality functions. These are balanced with updated meeting rooms and privacy rooms.

LWG Interior Designer Gabrielle Leamaire, ARIDO was a key design team member for this project, developing conceptual elements, working drawings and assisting throughout the construction period.

A rustic industrial palette stylizes the modern office without replicating a chicken coop

The brand new head office of Chicken Farmers of Canada, located in the nation’s capital, is a work environment quite atypical of the usual office vista. As leaders of the sustainable Canadian chicken industry, CFC works closely with farmers throughout the country to manage environmentally responsible farming that in return ensures the production of quality trusted protein. While continuously implementing the research and development of food safety standards and ethical animal care programs, these leaders strive to maintain a transparent alliance of Canadian Chicken Farmers.

Interior Designer: Liz Miller, ARIDO
Design Firm: Parallel 45 Design Group LTD.
Design Team: Jessica Vagner, Intern ARIDO
Project Photography: Justin Van Leeuwen

A recurring presence of ash wood is carried throughout the space: reclaimed wood planks clad feature walls and coffered ceilings, linear wood lights are suspended above workstations, while low ash panels connect each work area. The reclaimed wood is carried into the kitchen area where ash shelves are housed on industrial black plumbing pipes, one of the many black accents that occurs in the office.

Modern white breakroom with colourful chairs.

Deep hues of forest green, rusty orange and gold throughout emit a moody essence. Warm textures and materials effectively contrast the client’s desire for industrial like features, such as the organically etched carpet that is accented by a concrete-look luxury vinyl tile. To enhance industrial vibes, faux red brick panelling suggests the presence of shared exposed brick party walls, appearing weathered and rustic.

Brick panelled seating area with gray couches.

Each collaboration space and touch down area is complete with enticing accent lighting: oversized acoustic drums are suspended over sitting areas to muffle chatter; large black and gold pendants hover over the communal island; the organic swag light chandelier in the kitchen’s wooden nook provides an intimate glow above its company below.

Hints of chicken memorabilia are strategically placed throughout the space to reiterate the rural farm motifs: baby chicks appear on faded wallpaper running from floor to ceiling, a local barn in monochrome film overlays the large boardroom glass, and among others, branded chicken throw pillows are placed throughout.  

Office filing area with forest green wall and suspended wood panelled strip light.

As you walk through the new Chicken Farmers coop, you are filled with a peculiar charm, as this is no typical office, but an environment that lives and breathes the passion of their work.