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Otago Polytechnic learners help solve a privacy problem - Te Pukenga

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A group of Otago Polytechnic Bachelor of Design (Product) learners have been busy solving a problem of the future - ensuring there are places for hospital staff to have sensitive phone calls and conversations in the New Dunedin Hospital.

The New Dunedin Hospital design will provide open-plan workspaces, and will include quiet booths, casual seating areas, meeting rooms and "beverage bays" (mini kitchenettes), enabling staff to work in more collaborative ways.

But open-plan working comes with challenges - including finding somewhere to have a private conversation when meeting rooms are booked.

To help solve this issue, the Otago Polytechnic learners have designed "flexible focus environments" - freestanding, private, noise-reducing pods that staff can use for activities such as telehealth calls with patients.

Working in teams, the students have undertaken research, created cardboard mock-ups, and presented their prototypes to the New Dunedin Hospital project team.

"There has been a clear design vision to use non-toxic organic materials such as clay, wool, cardboard and other organic materials to reduce sound within the rooms," explains School of Design Senior Lecturer Andrew Wallace.

"There has also been a focus on disassembly and disposal at end of life."

Otago Polytechnic Head of Product Design Machiko Niimi says the project has provided a great opportunity for third-year students to work on a real-life problem for real clients.

"The students worked in teams, too. This helps us replicate a real-life design studio experience in a safe learning environment and builds important foundations for our students to be work-ready," Machiko says.

"The DHB staff were supportive of the human-centred design approach used in our curriculum.

"For example, students were invited to an interview session with doctors and administration staff to hear their first-hand experiences and everyday realities to understand their needs.

"Designing with real users in mind is key to designing a meaningful outcome."

Bridget Dickson, Project Director for the New Dunedin Hospital, says the students have come up with inspiring designs.

"Some of the designs are modular and can be joined together to create bigger spaces, some - such as the design with the grass elements - have been inspired by the natural environment, and some can be configured for multiple uses," Bridget says.

"It’s heartening to see such skilful, sustainability-focused and imaginative work from the designers of the future."

Editors note: Otago Polytechnic students will be installing the privacy zones at Dunedin Hospital around 2pm on Monday 16 May.

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