15. Experienced Architect
(Doug): When choosing an architect, how important is it for that person to have previous behavioral health care experience?
(David): Well, I’m probably a little biased but I think it’s very important that they have behavioral healthcare experience. Our firm does both medical and behavioral type design and there are a lot of subtle differences between the two and you need an architect that understands those things. And so the safety aspects and all the products that are out there to provide that safety, you need an architect that’s familiar with those things, such as door hardware, the mechanical aspects of diffusers and anti-literature plumbing fixtures and so forth. And so you need – there are a lot of products out there and some of them work well and some of them don’t work well. So having someone who has experience with that is very important. And then also understands the programmatic difference between a medical unit and a behavioral unit. It’s much more about not being in your room and being in the therapy space, whereas on the medical unit it’s about treatment from the room. And so that presents a very different way of looking at the design.
There’s also visibility issues of making sure the way the nurse station is set up that you have a visibility to those day spaces. And even the configuration what we found is that medical architects will tend to make the nurse stations bigger than they need to be because they’re used to several people working behind the desk, whereas on a behavioral unit your nurses are on the floor with the patients in the therapy spaces. So, I think it is very important.