Green is key for new Royal Adelaide Hospital

By Melissa Keogh

The highly-anticipated new Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) has been designed to aid patient comfort with two of life’s simplest pleasures – sunlight and fresh air.

Aside from high quality facilities and state-of-the-art medical equipment, the new hospital is set to show off green spaces which will assist in patient recovery and staff wellbeing.

The new RAH, expected to open in September, has 3.8ha of green space, including 70 courtyards and terraces, and an Aboriginal garden.

Each single inpatient room has an open window allowing access to natural light and fresh air and a wetland is also located at the western end of the site.

Each single inpatient room has an open window.

Windows in inpatient rooms allow access to natural light and fresh air.

Elke Kropf, director of commissioning for the new RAH, says the use of these elements would have a “significant” impact on patients’ wellbeing.

“Our bodies respond better to natural light and air,” she says.

“(They) reflect the way you feel mentally and have a significant impact on physical recovery.

“To be in a confined space and being able to get out and feel fresh air makes people feel better.”


Elke, who has a background in nursing and hospital development, has been liaising with existing RAH staff and a design team over the new hospital’s layout since 2008.

She says although the old RAH benefits from its proximity to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, it is a “concrete jungle”.

The new RAH’s green spaces were inspired by Scandinavian research and hospital designs, such as St Olavs Hospital in Norway, Elke says.

St Olavs is renowned for its link between nature and patient and staff wellbeing.

Also incorporated in the new RAH is an Aboriginal garden featuring native plant species and bordered by Corten steel panels featuring designs from Indigenous artists.

The Aboriginal garden at the new RAH.

The Aboriginal garden at the new RAH.

The garden will be accessed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Unit and will provide a peaceful and culturally respectful area for healing and mourning.

Aside from improving patient wellbeing, the green spaces are also set to benefit staff.

“Mental health and physical (working) conditions are very closely linked and transfer into staff satisfaction at work,” Elke says.

“Even our departments in the basement (loading dock, mortuary, and waste management) have access to a courtyard and garden.”


Health Minister Jack Snelling says the benefits to patient recovery will be “enormous”.

“Simple things like being able to feel the breeze and warmth of the sun can help make a huge difference in both the speed of recovery and also in terms of mental health,” he says.