Clarity Child Guidance Center is a nonprofit children’s hospital in San Antonio that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, with an existing campus built in the 1980s within the South Texas Medical Center.

In 2013, Marmon Mok Architecture (San Antonio) was asked to assist in the development of an updated master plan and design of new campus buildings to streamline operations and provide additional space for physicians and therapists, accommodate the growing demand for services, and enhance the therapeutic recreation program.

This latest expansion completes build-out of the campus and includes a new 14-bed residential unit with a new six-room observation unit and a new admissions department, a new recreation therapy center and multipurpose gymnasium, a day treatment building, a three-story outpatient services building, and a new parking garage.

The design intent was to build a top-notch behavioral care facility while creating a soothing and inviting family-oriented environment designed specifically for kids. Natural light and colorful features and graphics liven up the ambience of the space and create an inspiring environment for staff, patients, and their families. Glass walls divide some of the program areas to open the layout, allowing enhanced safety and supervision of the patients.

Through extensive research and by rethinking solutions, the expansion will improve the environment in terms of materials, furniture, durability, safety, and function. High-impact drywall and a wall protection panel increase durability and resistance on all walls. A new furniture package and wood-grain vinyl tile create a welcoming non-institutional look, while providing high durability and ease of maintenance. Every patient room has a high-impact door, double-action door hinges, and its own bathroom with ligature-resistant plumbing fixtures to protect the patients.

Clarity recently implemented a new program to help divert psychiatric patients from the emergency room to behavioral care facilities, where they are observed for less than 24 hours to assess their condition and optimal treatment. The organization saw the need for a new observation room to accommodate this service, which Marmon Mok modeled after a combination of a crisis stabilization unit and an inpatient unit.

With scarce literature on behavioral health design and no existing state standards for designing an observation room, the team was posed with a new design challenge. The solution was locked units that are roughly 100 square feet and include a convertible couch that folds out to a bed for overnight stays and seating for family. The observation unit works in conjunction with the traditional inpatient unit and shares storage, linen, and seclusion rooms.

The team also expanded the therapeutic recreation program to add a gymnasium with a basketball court and children’s games—such as bowling, hopscotch, and four square—painted in the court surface. A new multipurpose room and a music room will now allow the organization to offer more activities to allow kids to be kids.

The expansion is expected to be completed in December 2015.