Davis Partnership Architects
Firm's Role on the Project: To create a welcoming environment while also priortizing safety.
The primary goal of the project is to “Build Sanctuary” by creating a welcoming, comfortable environment that provides a sense of dignity and safety for both patients and staff. To this end, the design team worked to cultivate an atmosphere that supports healing without feeling institutional, helping patients remain at ease and open to receiving treatment.
West Springs Hospital is a new replacement facility consisting of a 48-bed inpatient psychiatric hospital on the Mind Springs Health campus in Grand Junction, Colorado. Future plans include 16 additional beds, for a total of 64. Of the three (later four) units in the facility, one will provide specialized care and treatment for children and adolescents. The project also includes three separate entries (one for the general public, another for crisis and urgent needs, and a third providing secure entry for hospital staff); an art room; a gym; ample outdoor space within interior courtyards; therapy and quiet rooms; areas for visiting family members; and support spaces for both patients and staff.
The biggest challenge was creating a space that meets stringent safety requirements while, at the same time, providing a welcoming environment where patients can maintain their dignity and humanity. Careful consideration was given to simple, everyday features such as light fixtures, glazing, furniture, and toilet accessories, as any of these items could be used by patients to harm themselves, staff members, or other patients. Striking a balance between the two extremes of safety and comfort—and, more specifically, incorporating durable design elements that are behavioral health-appropriate without generating an overly institutional atmosphere—became the major focal point for both the team’s research and design efforts.
To create a welcoming environment while prioritizing safety, the project began with an intensive design process. An extensive, cross-disciplinary literature review was undertaken first to identify the challenges of inpatient behavioral health design and to evaluate high-impact design strategies throughout the facility. For example, lighting, color, and artwork were analyzed for their effects— whether calming or agitating—on the patient population.
The design team included a behavioral health expert who offered guidance and consultation to the client, and behavioral health peer groups were included in design meetings to provide the patient perspective. In the Design Development phase, Lean rapid prototyping exercises helped to better define the owner’s priorities, concerns, and workflows. And while the input of the behavioral health consultant was instrumental in ensuring the safety and success of both the product and design strategies, the team also capitalized on the extensive experience of our design and ownership teams. The hospital’s facilities team in particular provided crucial insights on the durability of certain products and the effects of design decisions on patients and staff.
Based on both collaboration with the owner and the preliminary literature review, it was determined that nature’s impact on the healing process cannot be overstated. However, the varying methods used to incorporate nature into the behavioral health environment impacts patients differently. For instance, when it comes to artwork, abstract or out-of-scale images should be avoided as they can trigger confusion or anxiety in patients. Research indicated that properly scaled, clear nature images help to ground patients in their surroundings.
Furthermore, because views of nature and daylight have been shown to support healing and reduce stress, the project includes generous amounts of glazing. There is some concern, however, about the durability and safety of the glazing, as well as the risk of overheating. Next steps will include mock-ups of various glazing products to ascertain the safety and comfort of the available options.
In addition to the glazing, specific final product details will be reviewed for safety purposes. These include finishes, door hardware, bathroom fixtures, and accessories used in high-acuity areas where patients may be unsupervised. After occupancy, data on patient critical incidents will be analyzed to compare frequency, duration, and intensity between the existing and new facilities.