Designing for Behavioral Health Units

Posted 2 April 2015 12:00 AM by Evan Bane

An interesting recent article in Health Facilities Management magazine, gives architects some clear paths in designing for behavioral health facilities.  Yes, they differ from general hospitals – for example the patient room in a hospital is the prime location for much of the patient’s stay, treatment and care.  However, in behavioral health, many of the functions take place in group rooms, day rooms, dining and activity rooms.

One critical aspect in behavioral health is the concern for suicide ideation and action. Design can certainly play a role in reducing some of the risk for self-harm (e.g., eliminating ligature points, etc.), but a multi-pronged approach – including suicide risk assessment, procedures and monitoring – must be in place to enhance suicide prevention.

The article goes on to list several resources available to designers, with many documents providing detailed information regarding design and construction of psychiatric facilities.  These Include:

  • Codes
    • International Building Code
    • NFPA

  • The 2014 FGI Guidelines
    • Design and Construction of Hospitals and Outpatient Facilities
    • Design and Construction of Residential Health, Care, and Support Facilities
  • References
    • Design Guide for the Built Environment of Behavioral Health Facilities (NAPHS)
    • Patient Safety Standards and Systems Guidelines (NY State OMH)
    • Mental health Facility Design Guide (VA)


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