Tiffany Long, AIA, ACHA, RID, EDAC, LEEDAP
Partner at Marmon Mok Architecture
By: Jenny Jurica
Photography by David Teran
If you have been a visitor or a patient at a new hospital recently, you might have noticed a difference in the aesthetic of the buildings, both inside and out. Gone are the cold, sterile-looking hospital rooms and waiting areas of the past, replaced with warm and cozy color palettes, comfortable furniture, and, in some cases, a decidedly spa-like feel at your local hospital.
This change in the design of healthcare facilities is part of a growing movement to make hospitals and doctor’s offices more calming and comfortable. Research has shown that the aesthetic of the spaces aids in the recovery of the patient and reduces the overall stress levels of everyone who sets foot inside–from patients, visitors, and healthcare workers. Among those industry leaders focusing on the architecture and interior design of healthcare facilities is Tiffany Long, a partner at Marmon Mok Architecture.
Long knew from the time she was a teenager that she wanted to study architecture. Born and raised in San Antonio, she drew inspiration from the architecture of the missions and other historic spaces in the city.
“It’s one of the things that inspired my interest in architecture…the history and culture surrounding the buildings and missions of San Antonio,” said Long.
Long attended Texas A&M University, where she obtained a Bachelor of Environmental Design and then received her Master of Architecture, specializing in Healthcare Systems and Design.
“I took a lot of Psychology classes in college and enjoyed the science and research, but still loved architecture, so I found a way of blending both,” she recalled.
Long has been with Marmon Mok Architecture for 14 years, where her portfolio consists of developing the scope and compiling research for how to design hospitals and other healthcare facilities to reflect a sense of comfort and calm to patients and visitors.
In addition to receiving a recent promotion, Long is also a recipient of The San Antonio Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” award. Long is currently leading a project team on a 700,000 square foot facility for University Health System’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital, slated to open in 2023.
“Lots of our decisions for the project are based on research,” said Long. “Private NICU rooms are new for this region and really encourage that ‘couplet care’ and mother-baby bonding. It shows measurable benefits for both mother and baby in terms of recovery and healing,” added Long.
When asked how COVID has impacted her designs, Long is quick to respond.
“With COVID, there has been an influx of others wanting to learn more about healthcare architecture, and that leaves us wondering how we might design environments in the future that could benefit us in a similar situation.”
For instance, Long explained how mechanical engineers are making sure the airflow is filtered to the maximum extent in healthcare facilities. And now, clients in different market sectors have reached out to Long for advice on design in areas beyond healthcare work.
“[Prior to COVID] Design was trending to more open office environments, and now we’re rethinking that. Everyone is guessing what things will be like going forward,” she added.
Sometimes it is little “tweaks” in an environment that can add up to significant changes in the patient’s experience. For instance, Long recently worked on the design for a cancer center. In Long’s design, windows were strategically placed to provide positive distractions so that patients could see outside while they sat in the treatment room for hours at a time.
However, when Long went to the facility after it was completed, she noticed that the staff had inadvertently turned the treatment chairs to face away from the windows. Long suggested that the chairs be repositioned, and the whole vibe of the room quickly changed for the patients.
“Even when you don’t realize it, your surroundings play an important part in your perception and overall feeling of a place,” said Long
Long attributes her professional success to a drive to always better herself by seeking additional education and credentials (Long is one of only a few local architects to receive the ACHA [American College of Healthcare Architects] recognition), as well as the people who have supported her throughout her career.
Long currently serves on the American Heart Association “Go Red for Women” Executive Committee and the Circle of Red Leadership Team, helping to advance funding for research, education, and advocacy for women’s healthcare and nutrition.