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Does Space Matter? An Exploratory Study for a Child–Adolescent Mental Health Inpatient Unit

August 2017
EBD Journal Club


Trzpuc, S. J., Wendt, K. A., Heitzman, S. C., Skemp, S., Thomas, D., & Dahl, R. (2016). Does space matter? An exploratory study for a child–adolescent mental health inpatient unit. HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 10(1), 23-44.


Objective: The aim of this study is to explore design elements and spaces as a contributing influence to behavior and well-being for patients, staff, and families in a child–adolescent mental health unit.

Methods: A mixed-methods approach was utilized to explore the influence of several design strategies intended to induce calm feelings for patients, staff, and families. A comprehensive literature review informed the design process and study design. Methods include patient image surveys (PIS; n ¼ 188), online staff surveys (n ¼ 48), and face-to-face staff interviews (n ¼ 25).

Results: Several design elements and spaces were identified through the image survey as influential in eliciting feelings of calm among patients. Additionally, staff were also influenced by the new unit design, generating feelings of calm, safety, and pride in the work environment.

Conclusion: Results suggest that design features in which patients have choice and control offer greater perceptions of calm during their stay in the unit. Staff were positively influenced by the colors and artwork throughout the unit as well as the upgraded security and safety features. Findings also show the space has a positive influence on families, demonstrated by its welcoming character and features that help to facilitate better interaction with patients.

Keywords: mental health, child–adolescent, mixed-methods, facility design, exploratory study