Healing Properties

October 2010

The new Compass system from Herman Miller Healthcare prescribes a humanistic, holistic solution for medical spaces.

By Jen Renzi

While hospitalized for severe back problems in the 1960s, Robert Propst — then head of the Herman Miller Research Corporation — noticed that cleaning and maintaining hospital furniture proved a major challenge for staffers. Those observations, coupled with further research, led Propst to develop Co/Struc, a modular storage and transport system for medical spaces, in 1972. Since then, the division’s collection has greatly expanded, with products from multitasking seating to nurse stations designed to support superior care, serve both patients and visitors, and bring high design to spaces typically lacking in creature comforts.

Healing Properties
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Herman Miller Healthcare’s latest debut is Compass, a suite of case goods, finishes, and work surfaces that address the evolving needs of healing spaces. “When we first started researching patient-care areas, we focused on issues such as caregiver effectiveness, infection prevention, and patient/family experience,” says Joel VanWyk, Herman Miller Healthcare director of product management. “But we realized that a bigger problem was inflexibility; spaces could be designed extremely well initially, but furnishings couldn’t keep up with changes in care practices, technology, or space usage.”

In response to that need, Compass components are easy to disassemble and reconfigure for use in myriad applications — from clinical labs to patient rooms and waiting areas — and can accommodate technology upgrades. All uphold high standards of safety, cleanliness, and efficiency: Sinks integrated into Corian work surfaces can be specified with continuous backsplashes to achieve a seamless installation, and case goods float above the floor so it can be more easily maintained.

The system was developed with evidence-based design consultancy Continuum, which gathered observations from myriad practitioners and end users. “Every aspect of Compass responds to that research,” says VanWyck. Coordinating products introduced this fall by Herman Miller subsidiaries Nemschoff and Brandrud include an exam chair with a smooth-motion calibrated vertical lift and a space-conscious sleeper settee. Herman Miller Healthcare, Zeeland, Mich. circle 200

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