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Designing for Mental and Physical Wellness: Hoefer Welker's Holistic Approach to Intentional Behavioral Healthcare Design

Designing for Mental and Physical Wellness: Hoefer Welker's Holistic Approach to Intentional Behavioral Healthcare Design

With Mental Health Awareness Month coming to a close, there’s no better time to reflect on the impact of thoughtful design for behavioral health spaces. When designing behavioral healthcare spaces, Hoefer Welker strives to support the needs for physical care and mental wellness. Our firm is passionate about approaching behavioral health projects with thoughtful, human-centric designs. Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, we pride ourselves on listening to our clients to create tailored solutions that address the specific needs of patients with intentional features.

With intentionality, safety and technology at the forefront of our behavioral health designs, Hoefer Welker ensures holistic care for mental and physical wellness with the following three concepts:

Designing Human-Centric Solutions: The Power of Listening in Design

Hoefer Welker believes that effective behavioral health design begins with intentional listening and learning. Before the design work begins, we immerse ourselves in the experiences of patients, loved ones and staff, gathering insights that inform every decision. In a recent project, we launched an interactive design process using a model of physical room pieces. We worked alongside the behavioral healthcare staff to design the layout of every room. The goal was to see how staff would design the hospital for functionality and improved patient outcomes. By prioritizing listening and inclusivity, we can continue to lay the groundwork for designs that meet regulations and resonate on a deeply human level.

“We strive to be empathic designers and listen before we draw. Doing this takes patience but creates an inclusive environment for everyone we serve,” said Tiffany Kalloor, associate principal at Hoefer Welker. “We listen first and then create customized ideas, solutions and guidelines.”

Our firm involves experts in behavioral health who partner with the design team to ensure we understand the needs of every space. We also use surveys to better understand patients’ experiences and how our spaces can continue to evolve to meet their needs. This work, combined with a deep understanding of the latest research and regulations, allows us to advocate for the future of behavioral health designs.

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Understanding the Landscape: Prioritizing Safety and Experience

Patient safety is crucial in behavioral health spaces, and safety features often stem from the space's initial design. Hoefer Welker begins all behavioral health projects with an in-depth look into the space's needs. We meticulously navigate regulatory challenges while never losing sight of patients at the center of our designs. By embracing a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates architecture, interior design and engineering, we ensure that every aspect of our projects is aligned to create environments that promote safety.

“It’s critical that our work ensures a safe patient environment while simultaneously embracing innovative ideas, technology and designs,” said Erik Higgins, associate principal at Hoefer Welker. “Yet, we also prioritize envisioning our industry's future landscape, strategizing to ensure our work remains adaptable to evolving needs."

Creating spaces that support the well-being of caregivers and staff is equally as essential as designing for patients. We understand the demands placed on those who dedicate themselves to caring for others and prioritize creating environments that offer respite, efficiency and empowerment. We do this by ensuring that there are decompression rooms for caregivers to replenish themselves. We also incorporate room layouts and wayfinding that allow nurses and doctors to be as efficient as possible. Investing in caregivers' well-being generates a ripple effect of compassion and support for everyone involved in the healing process.

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Innovative Solutions: Integrating Technology for Behavioral Health Spaces

As innovators in behavioral health design, we are committed to pushing the boundaries of what's possible for our clients and the patients they serve. Coupling innovation with technology, our firm is shaping environments that meet today's needs and lay the foundation for a resilient future.

Technology is revolutionizing the behavioral healthcare industry at a rapid rate. To provide the best care possible, technology and healthcare must work together. Our team implements state-of-the-art medical technology to improve care outcomes. These complex systems require attentive focus to ensure technology is fully integrated into facility design, construction and operations.

Technology is also used in behavioral health to create customizable spaces that evoke a sense of normality and safety in a patient's life. From optimizing acoustics to using the power of artwork, lighting and furniture, every detail is carefully curated to create environments that promote calm, comfort and well-being. We create innovative technology solutions that meet the requirements needed while putting patients' well-being first.

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In a previous project, a client approached our team with the idea of installing an overhead projected television that seamlessly integrated into the ceiling without distraction or direct patient access. This allowed patients to watch videos, movies or shows when a positive distraction is needed. After conducting thorough research, we found that there was no existing product to make it work in the space. This prompted the Hoefer Welker team to design a unique solution to bring this idea to life. This integrated approach showcases Hoefer Welker’s commitment to being a leader in behavioral health design.

Reflecting on the Impact of Thoughtful Behavioral Healthcare Design

By listening to patients and our clients, prioritizing safety and utilizing state-of-the-art technology, we can create environments that meet current needs and anticipate and adapt to the evolving behavioral health landscape. Our human-centric solutions are rooted in listening and thoughtful design.

Mental Health Awareness Month reminds our team of the importance of thoughtful and functional behavioral health design to promote mental and physical wellness. With this in mind, we can continue to build spaces that promote improved patient outcomes.


John Castorina

John Castorina

Managing Partner | National Healthcare Practice Leader

John joined Hoefer Welker as managing partner of our Dallas office in 2015. In addition to leading the Dallas design studio, he brings experience, an award-winning portfolio and a global perspective to the firm’s healthcare design practice. His areas of technical expertise include strategic facilities planning, medical planning and design, lean healthcare, and sustainability. His projects have been widely published and presented at industry conferences. John earned board certification from the American College of Healthcare Architects (ACHA), attained Lean Green Belt Certification from the Institute of Industrial Engineers, and upholds the highest standards of healthcare design and professionalism.

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