A recent trend in behavioral healthcare facility construction is pushing interior designers, architects, healthcare officials and others involved in the look and feel of the facility to normalize or – in more laymen’s terms – create a residential feel inside their walls. Research says that normalization of these facilities can lead to better patient outcomes, reduction in stress and anxiety and an increase in staff well being.
Furniture plays a big part in helping facilities reach this goal, with chairs being no exception. In years past, behavioral health facilities looked for institutional furniture and considered safety and durability well before appearance. But today, facilities have options and can have the safety and security they have always needed along with the aesthetics that research says improves the overall wellness of a facility. But not all behavioral healthcare chairs are alike. Here are five attributes to consider before making your purchase.
According to Tara Rae Hill – interior designer, color theorist and founder of LittleFISH Think Tank – there is a plethora of evidence-based research and design that supports the claim that when spaces are visually stimulating – with an interesting use of color, and not “overly neutral” – that the speed of healing dramatically increases, and in many cases the need for medication decreases.
“I continue to be insistent that color can have a positive influence and unless you are terribly irresponsible with your color palettes, color can only help versus hurt in a medicinal setting. For example, consider your own body. The majority of us experience our worlds – and many of our dreams as well – in full spectrum color,” she said. “Therefore, I’m very confident that your physiological response in a 100 percent, monochromatic grey patient room within a 100 percent grey world would be a diminished one.”
Be sure to consult with a healthcare interior designer or manufacturer who knows which hues are appropriate for which settings in your behavioral healthcare facility.
The question of whether or not to use upholstery on chairs in your facility comes down to one consideration: What is most critical in the environment where the chairs will reside? If aesthetics and comfort are the main concerns then facilities will want to include upholstery that is inviting and non-institutional and that creates a sense of home. Chairs for staff rooms, common areas, waiting and other non-acute areas fall into this category.
However, some furniture in behavioral healthcare facilities has to fend off bodily fluids, salt solution, chlorine, other chemicals and a steady stream of people in what are sometimes 24/7 environments. In these cases, upholstery is not always a wise choice. If you do select upholstery, be sure to select healthcare grade materials and ask your manufacturer what kind of industry standards and durability testing the upholstery has been put through.
There are a variety of different chair bases to choose from. In behavioral healthcare settings, we recommend selecting from three different types: Wood, steel and plinth.
Wood can help create a residential feel, is strong and can support heavy weight, and is a very diverse choice for chair bases considering the number of different types of wood that are used and the different hues of vanishes and stains that can be applied to them. However, if your chairs are going to be in an area where scrubbers are used to clean floors or where industrial vacuums clean rugs, do consider this: wood can chip and be scratched. For those types of environments, molded wood might be a better option. These bases are often made of durable polymer that looks like wood and come in the same color as many types of wood. Molded wood bases are even rot-resistant and since the polymer is the same color inside and out, scratches and nicks are much less visible.
Steel on the other hand is a versatile material and – as you might suspect – is highly durable and stands up to the continuous-use found in behavioral healthcare environments. Look for bases and legs that are made of heavy duty steel with molded-in steel threaded inserts for optional side-to-side ganging. That means the chairs can be connected – if needed – to avoid movement and ensures that the product won’t be picked up. Additionally, steel legs and bases give chairs a contemporary look and can add a modern flair to any environment.
A plinth chair base can best be described as a platform or block that the upper part of the chair sits on. Plinth is often chosen for its extreme durability and safety. In fact, it’s considered the most secure of all of the bases featured in this post. The bases are often made of one-piece, rotomolded polymer with no openings and no place to conceal contraband. Additionally, many chairs with plinth bases can be ballasted – an option where sand or other material is poured into the inside of the chair to make it hard to move or be picked up. And when properly fabricated, plinth bases are scratch, fluid and damage resistant. Lastly, your cleaning staff will thank you for choosing plinth bases since they are easier to clean and don’t require any reaching between chair legs. And maybe most importantly, many plinth bases have no ligature points, an important option for behavioral healthcare facilities.
The seat of the chair is the piece of the product that most often comes in contact with those who use it. Most often this part of the chair is made of cheap plastic or other material that is likely to fade. For these reasons, we recommend choosing rotomolded seating that is made with high-impact polyethylene or polyvinyl. Be sure the material is fire-retardant and is manufactured with ultraviolet light stabilizers that make the material fade resistant. Additionally, if manufactured properly, the chair should be chemically resistant to bodily fluids, dirt and grime, making it easy to clean and sanitize on a daily basis.
It’s good to have options. And chairs are no exceptions. Often times, behavioral healthcare facilities include multi-purpose rooms which require multi-purpose chairs. Simply put, chairs may serve in dining rooms during part of the day and may be used for sitting and watching television later on.
That makes it imperative for facilities to purchase chairs that can be used for different applications. Look for durable chairs that can stand alone at a table, but also consider chairs that can be mixed and matched. That includes chairs that can be lined up next to each other against a wall in a straight line or that can be combined to make a couch or pair well with ottomans and tables for dayrooms.
Lastly, look for suites of chairs that come in color palettes. This is particularly important if you want to feature more than just one hue in your facility, but require that the colors work well together.
Learn about Norix Furniture’s full line of Behavioral Healthcare Furniture here.