Designing for Behavioral Health

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Webinar On-Demand
Sponsored by Inpro
Presented by Peter Arsenault, Jim Hunt, David Kimball, Kevin Macoubrie

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify the role that building components and products can play in a well-designed behavioral health facility.
  2. Recognize the unique types of safety hazards found in behavioral health facilities that can facilitate self-harm of patients.
  3. Review the practical aspects of designing and constructing behavioral health facilities to meet the requirements of the Joint Commission on healthcare facilities.
  4. Determine ways to incorporate the principles and topics presented into architectural design and documentation as evidenced in specific examples.


AAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
This course can be self-reported to the AANB, as per their CE Guidelines
AAPEI 1 Structured Learning Hour
MAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
This course can be self-reported to the NLAA.
This course can be self-reported to the NSAA
NWTAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
OAA 1 Learning Hour
SAA 1 Hour of Core Learning
This course can be self-reported to the AIBC, as per their CE Guidelines.
This course is approved as a Structured Course
This course can be self-reported to the AANB, as per their CE Guidelines
Approved for structured learning
Approved for Core Learning
This course can be self-reported to the NLAA
Course may qualify for Learning Hours with NWTAA
Course eligible for OAA Learning Hours
This course is approved as a core course
This course can be self-reported for Learning Units to the Architectural Institute of British Columbia
This test is no longer available for credit

The Joint Commission on healthcare facilities has released new safety standards that are effective January 1, 2020, including some for behavioral health facilities. An independent, not-for-profit organization, The Joint Commission is the nation's oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. To earn and maintain The Gold Seal of Approval® from The Joint Commission, an organization undergoes an on-site survey by a Joint Commission survey team at least every three years. Maintaining the approval from the Joint Commission is crucial to the success of any healthcare facility. Therefore, virtually every behavioral health facility pursues this approval in order to operate and serve their patients.

The new safety standards include a provision to help prevent self-harm in these facilities, which is too often played out in suicide attempts. At the same time, behavioral health facilities need to, in some fashion, also create a warm, almost homelike atmosphere. This almost paradoxical situation impacts many design decisions including the selection of building materials and products, furniture and fixtures, etc. Clouding this issue even further is the question of risk and liability, and a possible misconception that every patient is a suicide or self-harm risk.

Based on the above, this course will review the issues surrounding the design of behavioral health facilities related to both comfort and safety. Architects will discuss the practical design and construction aspects of working these aspects into buildings and review some specific design examples.

Behavioral Health

Photo courtesy of Inpro


Kevin Macoubrie is a Behavioral Health Account Specialist with the blended experience of helping Architects, Interior Designers, Contractors and Facilities navigate the unique challenges of Behavioral Health product applications. Consulting on hundreds of projects over the past 25 years he has helped provide safe, durable solutions specific to Behavioral Health, Addiction/Rehabilitation, Developmentally Disabled and other abusive environments. Kevin believes the interior design of a facility plays an integral role in positive client outcomes and takes pride in providing a safe environment for people who can’t care for themselves. A San Diego native who relocated to the Midwest four winters ago, he now roots for the Green Bay Packers after his football team moved to Los Angeles.


David J Kimball, AIA CCS CDT. As Wendel’s Director of Healthcare Design Services, David guides a team solely dedicated to creating effective and responsible solutions for healing environments. He has been positively impacting people’s lives through design in health-care for over 25 years, offering thoughtful experience through a holistic approach, utilizing evidence-based and value-added principles. Having fun through work and creating long lasting relationships as a trusted advisor is his motivator. David’s Project experience crosses the continuum of care, including both inpatient and outpatient behavioral health, IMD, AODA, and memory care. He has spoken on the topic of behavioral health design and has been published in the AIA Academy of Architecture for Health. Sharing experiences, David is also a former Instructor of Architecture at Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, UW Stout.


James M. Hunt, AIA, is a practicing architect and facility management professional. He served as director of facility management for the Menninger Clinic for 20 years and publishes articles and speaks at major conferences frequently. He is founder and Senior Consultant of Behavioral Health Facility Consulting, LLC (BHFC), an organization that consults with behavioral health organizations and architects who design behavioral health facilities regarding their unique requirements for patient and staff safety. He has worked with behavioral health facilities for more than 40 years including more than 100 facilities in 30 states in the last ten years alone.


Peter J. Arsenault, FAIA. Mr. Arsenault is a registered architect, sustainability consultant, author, and speaker based in Greensboro, North Carolina. A 1977 graduate of Syracuse University, his multi-faceted work has focused on principles of high performance buildings including energy, code compliance, safety, and sustainability.


Inpro Founded in 1979, Inpro® is a global provider of high-performance, design-forward architectural products for building professionals.

Inpro's product categories include door + wall protection, washrooms, expansion joint systems, privacy, elevator interiors, architectural signage, and commercial window treatments.


Originally published in February 2020