Building on History at Eastern State Hospital

By Kiskinis, Garry G.; Keegan, John D. | Behavioral Healthcare Executive, July/August 2009 | Go to article overview

Building on History at Eastern State Hospital


Kiskinis, Garry G., Keegan, John D., Behavioral Healthcare Executive


Founded in 1773, Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia, was the nation's first public facility for the care and treatment of people with mental illness. Building on this rich history, the new 150-bed Adult Mental Health Treatment Center will be the second phase of a three-phase campus master plan, intended to consolidate die hospital's sprawling 500-acre campus to an efficient use of 100 acres at its "front door." Currendy under construction, the Adult Mental Health Treatment Center is scheduled to be occupied during the summer of 2010.

Designed by Clark Nexsen and developed by Gilbane Development Company for Virginia's Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (formerly the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services), the 188,000-square-foot facility will replace nine separate buildings, with most of die materials from diese structures' demolition being salvaged or recycled. The first phase of Eastern State Hospital's campus master plan was die 150-bed Hancock Geriatric Treatment Center (also designed by Clark Nexsen and developed by Gilbane), which was occupied in the spring of 2008 (See www.behavioral.net/ design0209). The third phase of Eastern State Hospital's campus master plan will consist of a support services facility for phases 1 and 2.

Housed under one roof, the Adult Mental Health Treatment Center will include seven patient living units along with areas for recovery programs, medical services, and administrative offices. The primary consideration in designing the center was to incorporate risk management solutions that focus on patient and staff safety in parallel with finishes that are low maintenance, address infection control, and provide visual appeal. Because the patient population includes those of a higher acuity, the project team's behavioral healthcare experts helped to select products, finishes, and details in support of Eastern State Hospital's risk management objectives and protocols. For instance, in designated areas the hospital will have tamper/abuse-resistant fixtures, fasteners, and devices; antiligature hardware and plumbing fixtures; security windows/glazing; and "hardened" construction details (e.g., wall construction including i m pact- resistant gypsum wallboard) so the building can be flexible in accommodating the entire patient population, regardless of acuity level.

The design team set out to create a healing, timeless environment for patients, family, and staff. To achieve this, the interior design concept reflects the elements of nature: wood, stone, water, metal, and fire. A select group of interior finish materials will be used in a variety of design applications throughout the facility to provide balance for a relaxing, comfortable, and stimulating residential neighborhood atmosphere - for instance, the use of warm-tone faux wood wall-protection in the patient admissions lobby. The visitor lobby will feature a secure vestibule "softened" through the use of a wood console table for the sign-in area. Also, as a means of "drawing visitors in," the ceiling height will transition upon entry from two stories to one. Moreover, the use of indirect cove lighting and metal panels will help break up long corridors and provide visual cues for both visitors and patients.

To promote a more residential atmosphere with smaller patient groupings, the living units are modeled on "neighborhood" clusters of five private patient bedrooms surrounding a shared living area and adjoining a central dining area. Six of the patient living units have 20 beds each (4 clusters of 5 beds each), and one has 25 beds (5 clusters of 5 beds each). Adding the 5-bed medical unit brings the facility's total bed count to 150.

Each patient living unit will offer a distinct entry with a sidelight and transom framing a maple wood door. Differing resin panels within the sidelights and transoms will make each entry unique. This concept will be repeated at the dining area, pharmacy, and team work areas. …

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