WHAT IS TRAUMA INFORMED DESIGN?
WORKSHOP8’s main design focus is affordable housing and that means designing for all different kinds of people. When we can, we like to apply some Trauma Informed Design principles to make a space more welcoming and comfortable. But, what exactly does that mean?
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines trauma as “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.” It does not discriminate based on age, race, sex or income. People of all demographics can experience trauma. In times like these, when unemployment is at all time high and the future may seem uncertain, many people are feeling the effects.
Trauma Informed Design is the practice of learning about and acknowledging the end users possible trauma and recognizing that the built environment can have a positive or negative impact on recovery and overall well being. While this practice is beneficial to projects of all types, it is most critical when designing spaces that serve our most vulnerable populations, such as homeless shelters, mental health facilities, women’s shelters, rehabilitation facilities and transitional or permanent supportive housing to name a few.
INTERIOR DESIGN BUILDING BLOCKS
As you learn about the end-users needs and fears, this knowledge can be directly applied to interior design decisions that are made throughout the design process.
Hallways at the Aerie apartments are wide and incorporate seating and natural light where possible (photo by daniel o’connor)
VISUALLY OPEN LAYOUT
- Eliminate visual barriers so that staff and clients can quickly and easily see who is in the space.
- Avoid unnecessary nooks and jogs that could serve as potential hiding spots.
- Design hallways and stairwells to be as wide as possible and have an open, airy feeling.
- Incorporate Universal Design so that people of varying abilities can autonomously move through the space.
THIS OPEN STAIRCASE AT SPRING CREEK APARTMENTS IS ILLUMINATED BY SOFT LIGHT FIXTURES AND NATURAL LIGHT (PHOTO BY RYAN LAWRENCE PHOTOGRAPHY)
LIGHTING & ACOUSTICS
- Make use of soft but bright lighting when illuminating spaces to provide a sense of both safety and comfort.
- Incorporate natural light and views of nature wherever possible.
- Eliminate loud or distracting noises with informed space planning, sound dampening finishes, and ambient or white noise sound systems.
Nature inspired color palettes created by workshop8
FINISH & COLOR SELECTION
- Utilize light and calming colors. Lighter colors make spaces feel more spacious and open. Cool colors are considered more calming, while warm colors can excite.
- Select patterns that are interesting, but not too busy. Patterns with symmetry are soothing.
- Draw inspiration from nature and incorporate biophilic design.
Example of custom wayfinding signage incorporated with placemaking paint color designed by workshop8 for fall river apartments (Photos by Dane Cronin)
- Incorporate directional and identification signage to make the space easy to navigate.
- Assign a color to each floor or type of space, creating a memorable landmark.
A variety of seating types are available in this common area at Fall river apartments (photo by Dane Cronin)
- Include different types of seating. This allows a client to choose what they are most comfortable with.
- Provide lockers or other safe spaces to store personal belongings.
- Add calming artwork inspired by nature, plants, or fishtanks.
- Install furniture so that there are views of entries into the space.
- Arrange furniture serving client / staff interactions in a communicative manner rather than authoritative.
DESIGN SUPPORTS FUNCTION
Service providers have been using a trauma-informed approach when creating programs for working with clients with unstable or difficult background for years. Designing the built environments that they utilize and rely on with the same approach will help support and enhance their mission
For those looking for more information on Trauma Informed Design, Design Resources for Homelessness is a great place to start.
Thanks for reading!
Chelsea Semelka | Interior Designer
28 OCTOBER 2020