Behavioral Sciences Center at UTHealth Houston Features Light-Filled, Flexible Design Concept

The first public mental health hospital constructed in Houston, Texas in more than three decades, the John S. Dunn Behavioral Sciences Center at UTHealth Houston brings a modern approach to care.

The 253,800-square-foot facility includes 264 new inpatient beds for acute and subacute treatment. Combined with the adjacent UTHealth Houston Harris County Psychiatric Center’s existing acute care beds, the campus is now the largest academic psychiatric hospital in the country, with a combined total of 538 beds for care. The project team included Perkins&Will and Vaughn Construction.

The facility is located in the Texas Medical Center and is comprised of an education/support pavilion; two, four-story treatment wings spanned by a glazed bridge and accentuated by courtyards and outdoor spaces. Designers cultivated a therapeutic environment informed by strategies for reducing stress and enhancing healing through the principles of lighting, acoustics and optimized space planning.

The exterior conveys the integrity of a modern, research-minded medical facility made welcoming by bright, spacious and thoughtful design. Buffered by a landscaped and tree-filled exterior courtyard, the entrance doors are located beneath a long, shaded overhang to visually cue the transition from the outside.

Once inside, large windows, scenic views and access to beautiful courtyards continue the sense of calm. Units are wrapped around internal courtyards, allowing patients ample access to the outdoors with privacy and security, which does not feel restrictive or institutional. Inside each unit, a daylit central common area is surrounded by single- and double-occupancy patient rooms. A warm material palette sets an overall tone of a soothing and comfortable space. Wood plank ceilings are used in the dayrooms and throughout the building.

UTHealth Houston and the design team worked with a local photographer to capture scenes of nature throughout the region as the subject for the supergraphics. The graphics were carefully curated to complement each unit’s accent color and tie back into the concept of nature as a healing element. The perspective of the imagery was deliberately chosen to work with the placement and how the image would be viewed.

In addition to these many visual considerations, designers also utilized sound-reducing materials, in conjunction with angular geometry, to diminish noise and thereby reduce stress and distractions for patients and staff.

The facility was built in partnership with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Medical Center. Housing a coordinated system of clinical units, support services and education and research spaces, the facility is set to stand on the forefront of treatment and training for the next generation of physicians and mental healthcare specialists.

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Posted May 20, 2022

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