Irish Journal of Medical Science (1971 -)

, Volume 186, Issue 1, pp 1–16 | Cite as

Towards a building typology and terminology for Irish hospitals

  • T. Grey
  • S. Kennelly
  • P. de Freine
  • S. Mahon
  • V. Mannion
  • D. O’Neill



The physical form of the hospital environment shapes the care setting and influences the relationship of the hospital to the community. Due to ongoing demographic change, evolving public health needs, and advancing medical practice, typical hospitals are frequently redeveloped, retrofitted, or expanded. It is argued that multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder approaches are required to ensure that hospital design matches these increasingly complex needs. To facilitate such a conversation across different disciplines, experts, and community stakeholders, it is helpful to establish a hospital typology and associated terminology as part of any collaborative process.


Examine the literature around hospital design, and review the layout and overall form of a range of typical Irish acute public hospitals, to outline an associated building typology, and to establish the terminology associated with the planning and design of these hospitals in Ireland.


Searches in ‘Academic Search Complete’, ‘Compendex’, ‘Google’, ‘Google Scholar’, ‘JSTOR’, ‘PADDI’, ‘Science Direct’, ‘Scopus’, ‘Web of Science’, and Trinity College Dublin Library. The search terms included: ‘hospital design history’; ‘hospital typology’; ‘hospital design terminology’; and ‘hospital design Ireland’.


Typical hospitals are composed of different layouts due to development over time; however, various discrete building typologies can still be determined within many hospitals. This paper presents a typology illustrating distinct layout, circulation, and physical form characteristics, along with a hospital planning and design terminology of key terms and definitions.


This typology and terminology define the main components of Irish hospital building design to create a shared understanding around design, and support stakeholder engagement, as part of any collaborative design process.


Acute-care hospitals Hospital architecture Hospital planning Stakeholder engagement Collaborative design Universal design Dementia-friendly hospital design 



The authors would like to thank the Meath Foundation for funding a research project looking at the design of dementia-friendly hospitals. This paper has emerged as a supporting document within this research.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by the Meath Foundation (no grant number applicable).

Not applicable.

T. Grey declares that he has no conflict of interest. S. Kennelly declares that he has no conflict of interest. P. de Freine declares that he has no conflict of interest. S. Mahon declares that he has no conflict of interest. V. Mannion declares that she has no conflict of interest. D. O’Neill declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Not applicable.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Grey
    • 1
  • S. Kennelly
    • 2
  • P. de Freine
    • 3
  • S. Mahon
    • 4
  • V. Mannion
    • 4
  • D. O’Neill
    • 2
  1. 1.TrinityHaus Research CentreTrinity College DublinDublinIreland
  2. 2.The Adelaide and Meath Hospital, Dublin, Incorporating the National Children’s HospitalDublinIreland
  3. 3.Health Services ExecutiveDublinIreland
  4. 4.O’Connell Mahon ArchitectsDublinIreland

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