Specialized lighting supports the comprehensive mission of a new hospital in India
By Samantha Schwirck
The city’s tallest vertical garden, gold-finished lobby luminaires, a VIP lounge with art-lined walls, and a café with lighting that appears to float. Hotel? No. Hospital? Yes.
Patients are only half the story at MGM Healthcare in Chennai, TN, which opened last year with sights set on becoming India’s first LEED Platinum-certified hospital. The other half is the notion of a modern, comprehensive wellness experience, resulting in the variety of spaces—as well as the variety of lighting treatments—used throughout the 300,000-sq ft facility.
“The Mahatma Gandhi Medical (MGM) College and Research Institute has built itself a reputation for medical education in India,” says Amardeep Dugar of Lighting Research & Design (Chennai), which was responsible for lighting public areas. “The next stage in its evolution of becoming an integrated healthcare player has been the launch of MGM Healthcare.”
From the time Dugar joined the project team in 2018, lighting was recognized as a key design factor in supporting doctors and therapists during treatments, promoting the healing process for patients and achieving environmental goals. “The right light at the right time in the right place was critical,” Dugar says.
While every aspect of the 400-bed specialty hospital reflects an ethos of healing and a sense of serenity—from the seven-story green living wall to the use of music therapy in critical-care areas, to thematic art galleries on each of the 11 floors—the diversity of spaces and users resulted in an equally diverse lighting design.
“Although [effective] wayfinding was nonnegotiable, there was a lot of latitude to experiment with brightness, color temperature and color rendering,” Dugar says. “However, one general principle was to make the effect of the 100% solid-state lighting as natural as possible to provide a better sense of wellbeing among patients and staff.”
Lobby lighting establishes the sense of serenity that carries forward throughout the facility. “While a well-lit lobby was essential, care was taken not to flood it with overabundant illumination that might create an environment akin to an emergency room,” Dugar says. Taking a cue from hospitality, the design combines functionality and style, resulting in an inviting yet professional setting punctuated by gold-finished luminaires.
Fixture selection and light levels also work to distinguish different areas within the lobby. The reception desk, for example, is illuminated by a suspended decorative pendant with 3000K sources, which tells visitors where to go upon arrival and provides adequate task lighting for paperwork. Decorative floor lamps and wall-mounted up/downlights (also at 3000K) illuminate seating areas, while ceiling-mounted cylindrical downlights with adjustable heads create a more relaxed atmosphere and accentuate paintings in the adjacent VIP Lounge for special guests and visitors.
Beyond the lobby, functionality becomes a more influential factor, especially in corridors. “Great care had to be taken to avoid direct glare from the lighting while moving patients in stretchers or wheelchairs,” Dugar says. Custom 4000K ceiling-recessed double-asymmetric linear fixtures wash the walls with glare-free vertical illumination and enable wayfinding. At night, the fixtures can be dimmed using an analogue rotary-dimmer mounted on the entry walls of each corridor.
Doctors’ offices required high levels of general illumination and good color rendering for visual examinations, as well as ergonomically correct and individually adaptable lighting for regular office visits. “Since the majority of consults consist of simply talking with the patient, soft general illumination was the best lighting solution,” Dugar says. “Modular panel luminaires in the grid ceiling reach the 500-lux average requirement with a color temperature of 4000K and high Ra 90 value.”
While functionality was the primary consideration in these spaces, decorative techniques still play a role. In corridors, wall-mounted up/downlights supplement general illumination, and decorative pendants highlight nurse stations. In executive-level corridors, circular coves with LED tape add soft illumination meant to echo a hotel hallway.
Administrative offices strike a similar balance. A combination of direct/indirect fixtures and task lighting achieve an optimal visual environment for screen-and paperwork, while circular pendant luminaires of different sizes and configurations create more intimacy and less of a clinical look.
The emphasis on atmosphere returns in social spaces, however, “atmosphere” doesn’t always mean “serene.” In the case of the cafeteria, “it was important to determine the type of mood to be created based on its hours of operation,” Dugar explains. “This is a high-energy establishment with staff and visitors using it 24/7, so it required bright lighting to keep them awake and alert.” Large windows let in ample natural light during the day, while a rhythmic composition of “floating” 3000K linear fixtures integrated between wooden ceiling rafters provides illumination after sunset.
Mood also guided lighting for new training rooms. “These rooms are much more than spaces where doctors come to sit and learn,” Dugar says. “They’re dynamic environments where people meet, share ideas and collaborate.” Ceiling coves with 4000K LED tape provide ambient light, while spotlights offer targeted accent illumination. Fixtures can be easily preprogrammed and dimmed depending on the event or use.
Any inspiration found during class is likely to be bolstered in the area just outside the training rooms, which contains the city’s tallest vertical garden as well as a large skylight allowing the wall to receive enough natural light for photosynthesis. Linear grazers evenly illuminate the greenery after dark, transforming it into a nighttime feature during conferences and events. Supplemental lighting in the area was kept to a minimum to maintain focus on the green wall.
“Few hospitals have a perfect lighting system, as the demands are complex and the need is for unique solutions that benefit both staff and patients,” Dugar says. However, illumination of the living wall ensures at least one of the facility’s lighting solutions does just that, bringing MGM Healthcare one step closer to achieving its comprehensive wellness experience.