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‘Balancing’ no longer required

June 30, 2015
by James M. Hunt, AIA
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I have written articles for Behavioral Healthcare discussing and promoting the concept of balancing design and safety in the past.  However, as new products have come on the market and new concepts have come into use by designers, I question whether the implied “compromise” between good aesthetics and safety is still needed. 

The word “balancing” to me implies compromise that may sacrifice one desired result to enable meeting other criteria. One dictionary definition is, “to counteract or offset.”

We can now have both good design and safety without having to give up anything on either side of the equation.

The patient bathrooms now being designed for behavioral health facilities both look better and are more safe than those of the past and, in fact, have surpassed those typically designed for general hospitals.  Yes, these can include bed pan washers for those who are ignoring the hospital-acquired infection risks of these devices.

Sometimes it is as simple as realizing that doing the same things we have always done no longer make sense (if they ever did).  Replacing 2’x4’ fluorescent light fixtures in patient areas with tamper resistant fixtures with a less institutional or commercial appearance has made a significant difference in facilities enlightened enough to break the mold.  Replacing shower curtains with showers that are designed to contain the water without needing curtains and many other examples are now available.

This needs to become the new standard of behavioral healthcare design. It needs to provide all of the aesthetic features as well as safety provisions for all patients without any compromises.  Yes, it can be done, if we all commit to working toward that goal!


Jim Hunt

Behavioral Healthcare Design Consultant

Jim Hunt


James M. Hunt, AIA, is a practicing architect and facility management professional with over 40...

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