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The Center for Health Design
The Center for Health Design - Currents Newsletter

February 21, 2019

The Scoop

Rising to the Challenge

The prevalence of mental health and substance abuse conditions in the United States continues to increase in frequency, placing new challenges and demands on healthcare providers and their facilities. 

An estimated 50% of all Americans are diagnosed with a mental illness or behavioral health disorder at some point in their lifetime. Mental illnesses, such as depression, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the United States for those aged 18-44 years old. Behavioral and mental health (BMH) conditions are even more common among patients receiving care for medical conditions. Up to 45% of patients admitted to the hospital for a medical condition or presenting to the emergency department with a minor injury also have a concurrent BMH condition. These BMH comorbidities increase the risk of psychological harm associated with care. Providing these patients with a healing, therapeutic environment should be an important goal for health design.

Design interventions aimed at improving the psychological well-being of patients with BMH comorbidities may be more cost-effective than they initially appear, because they can be leveraged to support improved well-being for other populations as well, including other patients, staff, and visitors.

To address these challenges and provide the latest thinking around design solutions, The Center is once again offering a Behavioral Health - Strategic Facility Design Innovations that Improve Treatment Outcomes, Safety and the Bottom Line Workshop, May 15, 2018 in Los Angeles. This one day interactive, collaborative, problem-solving workshop is ideal for individuals who are intending to design new mental and behavioral health facilities and those wishing to evaluate the quality of their existing facilities (see more workshop information in the column to the right). I hope you can join us and engage with a faculty of experts in behavioral health and design to set the stage for the path forward.

This Behavioral Health Strategic Design workshop will also be held in Baltimore in September. More details on this and two other autumn workshops covering Design for the Aging Mind and Pediatric Design Strategies will be coming soon.

Be well,

Debra Levin, Hon. FASID, EDAC
President and CEO


Industry News Briefs


Three Ways Waiting Room Design Can Transform the Patient Experience

The waiting room is one of the most important spaces in a healthcare facility. Unfortunately, it’s where patients and family members tend to spend the most time – and many say that time spent waiting is the worst part of going to the doctor. Recent research directly links long wait times with negative HCAHPS scores, meaning that a poor waiting experience can negatively impact reimbursements.  

Facility professionals today can focus on some key areas to improve the waiting room for patients and their families, and in turn help transform the overall patient experience.
Health Facilities Today, more. . .


Designing for Introverts and Extroverts

Private spaces energize introverts and social spaces energize extroverts. If the population is divided equally between introverts and extroverts, then what are we doing in hospitals to address the needs of both populations? That topic is explored in a blog series, first looking at provisions for hospital staff.

Typically, the nurses' station is designed with a tightly lined-up open work area equipped with armless chairs, possibly a rolling pedestal for each staff member, and a computer. Physicians, however, may have a semi-enclosed bank of workstations or cubbies off the main nurses' station with basically the same accommodations. In addition, if collaboration is required with other physicians or with a nurse, a perching station and/or conference table are often provided but also out in the open.
Healthcare Design, more . . .


All About the Flow: Improvements for Surgical Center Sterile Processing

Not one of us undergoes a surgical procedure with the hope of walking out the door with an infection along with the medical bill. Unfortunately, incidents of infections from healthcare facilities do occur, and opportunities for increased incidence are growing with the surge of ambulatory surgical centers, or ASCs, throughout the United States.

Oftentimes, ASCs are multidisciplinary, focusing on higher efficiency of care through flexible use of space and resources. As growth continues to rise, situations like Toxic Anterior Segment Syndrome, which spiked within the last decade, may occur more often as the complexity and breadth of surgical services offered is on the increase. However, significant measures to reduce risks, lower costs and improve quality of care can be realized with the adoption of “process-driven” design and planning, regardless of a project’s size and budget.
Medical Construction & Design, more. . . 


New San Francisco Hospital to Use a Seismic Wall Technology

The new California Pacific Medical Center Van Ness Campus hospital is scheduled to open in March, and when it does, it will be the first building in North America to use a seismic wall technology that will help the building better ride out earthquakes.

Sutter Health's 11-story CPMC will have 119 viscous wall dampers, a technology designed to absorb strong movement and reduce overall stress on the building. The technology uses a steel box filled with a viscous polymer that allows a vertical steel plate connected to the floor girder above to move freely and allow the fluid to absorb the energy during an earthquake. It has been used in earthquake-prone Japan during the past 25 years before its first implementation in the U.S. on this project. 
BISNOW, more . . .


Going Beyond the Punchlist: Why Architects Should Embrace Post-Occupancy Evaluations

While costly, a post-occupancy evaluation (POE) can reveal a wealth of information. Furthermore, new technologies are helping architects track building performance like never before.

On the eve of a massive building campaign for which universities planned to invest billions in new student housing, two architects undertook an unprecedented study of what students needed and wanted. Talking to residents and observing their habits in detail, they found that the typical new dormitory design was woefully inadequate. Public space was underutilized, personal space was inflexible, and housing was isolated from other functions on campus. Dorms were cold and impersonal—“as homey as a Greyhound bus depot,” according to one student—and surveys revealed that many inhabitants felt “stifled” and even “enraged.” Proposing an alternative, mixed-use approach that offered greater variety and more flexibility, the architects found that universities could significantly improve the student experience at two-thirds the cost.

That was 50 years ago. Sim Van der Ryn and Murray Silverstein’s groundbreaking research, published in 1967 as Dorms at Berkeley: An Environmental Analysis, was possibly the first formal example of what came to be called post-occupancy evaluation (POE), the process of assessing buildings after the fact. “There is no feedback channel between planning assumptions and building use,” they declared. “Our focus is on the silent partner in the design process—the user affected by design decisions.”
Metropolis, more. . . 

The Center for Health Design would like to thank our
thought leadership partner:


Save the Date and 
Get the Early Bird Rate!

Register early -
workshop sold out last year!

Behavioral Health Strategic Design Innovations that Improve Treatment Outcomes, Safety and the Bottom Line

Date:  May 15, 2019
Hyatt Regency Los Angeles Airport
6225 West Century Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90045

The challenges created by today’s growing mental health and substance abuse crises reach far beyond the behavioral health unit into emergency departments, outpatient clinics and throughout acute care settings.

To support improved care and enhance staff safety, today’s design, facility and care professionals have to advance their understanding of design’s impact on behavioral health care and learn how to incorporate the best and latest design solutions throughout the healthcare setting.

Real World Experiences.
Future-looking Insights.

Hear the industry's leading behavioral health facility design experts share how design is making a difference in the lives of children and adults faced with behavioral and mental health conditions. They’ll share real world experiences and future-looking insights into:

  • The implications of your design decisions
  • Innovative and effective design strategies that support behavioral health populations
  • Case studies of state-of-the-art facilities
  • Existing standards and behavioral health models

More workshop information here.

Sponsored by:



Member Project:
Rockville Hospital Behavioral Health Unit

Moser Pilon Nelson Architects worked with the hospital, selecting Altro Aquarius and Altro Whiterock for use throughout the unit. Altro Whiterock’s hygienic nature prevents water and moisture ingress, and its durable impact-resistance ensures a sledgehammer strike won’t even crack its panels. 

Enjoy this free resource here.


We invite you

to join us for Health Design Insights Networking Events

Come meet and connect with The Center's Affiliate members and the regional healthcare design community for "Innovations in Healthcare Design," an informal, creative presentation with wine, hors d’oeuvres and networking (worth one EDAC/AIA CEU credit).

These events are FREE to The Center's Affiliate Members and Partners. Non-members can attend for a $65 donation which can later be applied towards membership. Contact Lynn Kenney for details,

Upcoming Health Design Insights Events: 

San Francisco, April 17

Chicago, July 25

New York, September 26


Classic Resources

Free resources and tools to advance best practices and demonstrate the value of design to improve health outcomes, patient experience of care, and provider/staff satisfaction and performance. 

Behavioral Health Toolbox 

Thanks to our partners, architecture+, Stance Healthcare and Whitehall Manufacturing, the entire Behavioral & Mental Health (BMH) toolbox, filled with design interventions aimed at improving the psychological well-being of patients with BMH comorbidities is free to all. This toolbox contains a library of newly-created and Center staff-curated content - research findings, expert insights, strategies, tools, and other useful resources.


Knowledge Repository 

A complete, user-friendly library of healthcare design resources that continues to grow with the latest research. Start with our Knowledge Repository for all of your searches for articles and research citations on healthcare design topics.





The Center for Health Design is a nonprofit 501c(3) organization whose mission is to transform healthcare environments for a healthier, safer world through design research, education and advocacy. Looking for ways to support our work? Contact us.

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Concord, CA 94520
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