John S. Dunn Behavioral Sciences Center

Houston, Texas
A Link to Long-Term Health

A statewide shortage of mental health professionals and patient beds can make it difficult for Texans with behavioral health disorders to get the support they need.  The leaders behind the new UTHealth Behavioral Sciences Center aim to change that by bringing behavioral health close to home, reducing the stigma of treatment, and empowering patients across a wide spectrum of mental health needs.

Perkins&Will designed each space in the complex to naturally aid appropriate and beneficial interactions between patients and staff. To that end, the design team ensured that residential units are situated around a central living area, promoting engagement amongst residents. Additional amenities include a therapy mall, activity room, and a communal dining area with views onto an internal courtyard, as well as an external courtyard leading to a large, tree-filled area.

A Spectrum of Services

The current mental health system can be difficult to navigate—particularly when moving between different levels of care—leading to an elevated rate of readmission for behavioral health patients. Intended to help close the gap, the Behavioral Sciences Center will include acute, subacute, and residential treatment programs designed to seamlessly move patients along the spectrum of wellness.

The Neuroscience of Health

The building is an example of how we are translating biomedical research into design principles. Using our in-house expertise in neurophysiology, the building is designed to be a true treatment facility with a therapeutic environment tuned to the human experience—reducing agitation and encouraging healing through lighting, acoustics, and visual aspects throughout. In particular, we’re applying research on the effect of natural daylight and darkness on circadian rhythms, which have a direct influence on an individual’s emotional and mental state.

Research-based design interventions—such as the critical role of light on circadian rhythms—aid psychiatric patients in the healing process.
When combined with the existing UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center’s existing acute care beds, the campus will become the largest academic behavioral health hospital in the country.
“Physical environment plays a big role in patient outcomes, research and our own experience has shown. We tried to design the building so it will provide an environment in which patients will be more comfortable, less stressed, and in control.”

Stephen Glazier, COO, UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center

Project Team

Diana Davis