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Design for Health and Human Services Showcase

May 1, 2010
by Behavioral Healthcare staff
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For the second year, Behavioral Healthcare invited design firms and provider organizations to submit innovative building projects for review in our annual Design for Health and Human Services Showcase. Three highly regarded experts returned to our jury in 2010:

Michael Meehan, AIA, LEED AP, is an architect with BWBR Architects in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he serves as the professional development manager. His project experience includes a variety of corporate, higher education, and medical projects, including behavioral healthcare buildings (See In 2007, Meehan served as chair of the national AIA Young Architects Forum, and he received an AIA Young Architects Award in 2008.

Aneetha McLellan, IIDA, NCIDQ, LEED AP, is director of interior architecture at HDR's Omaha, Nebraska, office, where she has been an interior designer since 1996. She has been the project designer for numerous healthcare projects and has extensive experience in conceptual planning, space planning, interior architectural design and coordination, furniture coordination and packages, and user group meetings.

David M. Sine, CSP, ARM, CPHRM, is President and founder of SafetyLogic Systems. He has been the state safety director of two Eastern states, the senior staff engineer for the Joint Commission, and a senior consultant for the American Hospital Association (See He acts as a risk management advisor to the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems and is a co-author of the Design Guide for the Built Environment of Behavioral Health Facilities: Edition 3.0.

While last year's entries impressed jurors with their application of evidence-based design-seen in elements like natural lighting, outdoor views, and use of artwork-jurors called 2010 a year of patient-centered design, since each facility involved its patient population in the process of designing comforting, “homelike” spaces. These collaborations resulted in innovations that offered clients more choices within the facility environment while creating varied spaces where clients could interact outside of treatment areas.

The jurors noted that Takoda Trails displayed a unique dedication to patient-centered design by actually giving clients their own on-site residences. “They wanted homes, so the facility bought some,” one juror commented. “This is patient-centered design in great evidence.”

Cazenovia Manor's residential aesthetic resonated with the jury, who noted that its “exterior design and detailing shine.” Jurors praised the design for its liberal use of natural materials, notably wood, to create a welcoming space that combined the ability to “successfully integrate with a residential neighborhood,” while still exhibiting a unique “depth and personality.”

Green strategies caught the jury's eye, particularly in the case of UHS Springwoods Behavioral Health. This design not only considered energy efficiency, but also planned in sidewalk approaches and bicycle parking. “Access to and encouragement for use of alternative transportation here is exemplary,” one juror noted.

Jurors cited strategic decisions made in the design of Brown County's Community Treatment Center as the key to execution of an expertly-designed facility-described as “soothing, comfortable, gracious, and homelike”-at a very reasonable cost. “This project provides an excellent level of design for a relatively low cost per square foot,” one juror said. “This represents an excellent value.”

Certain details, notably room furnishings, came in for criticism on numerous projects, however. Jurors pointed to details such as curtain rods, clothing rods, exposed door and drawer handles, and open hinges as possible safety concerns for behavioral health patient populations. Noting the availability of “safer” furnishings, one juror asked, “If there are alternatives that don't cost you anymore and look all right, why wouldn't you?”

The jury was pleased to award two facilities with honorable mentions.

Essex County Hospital Center - Institute for Mental Health Policy, Research and Treatment

The jury agreed that this project successfully overcame the major design challenge facing a large facility: sustaining a cohesive design aesthetic throughout. “The spaces look like they belong to each other, even though it's a huge facility,” one juror noted. “For how difficult large projects can be, this is well done.” The jury was impressed that “every edge of the space receives attention, including the ceilings.”

The jury also praised the integration of indoor and outdoor spaces and an attention to detail throughout. “The space planning centers around the garden and beautiful views to the outside,” one juror commented. “The landscaping is wonderful and is highlighted throughout the facility.”

The facility's use of “forward-thinking” technology also struck a positive chord. Strategically placed security technology, along with wireless Internet access, offers an increased sense of freedom and mobility to staff and patients alike.

Cypress Lodge CTR

Situated among the mountains of British Columbia, Cypress Lodge CTR offers “amazing views” and “gracious daylighting.” Said one juror: “The site itself is a tremendous asset to the facility and it is used to good advantage.” The design brings “the healing qualities of nature into the building.”