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Case Study

School Design Promotes Mental Health 

Sunlight, fresh air and an “inside-out” space flow design can influence mental health and deter school violence.


Project: Youth Development Center
Location: Houston
Architects: PlanNorth Architectural Co., Houston
Client: Youth Development Center 

Sunlight, fresh air and an “inside-out” space flow design can influence mental health and deter school violence, says Katie Burch, founding partner and principal architect of PlanNorth Architectural Co. “A building design focused on overall wellbeing can deter negative behavior and influence a person’s mental well being. 

Burch’s firm designed the Youth Development Center (YDC) as a prototype for this concept in the Greater Fifth Ward, one of Houston’s highest-crime areas. The YDC provides intensive after school academic intervention programs for at-risk students in grades 1-6.  

The school’s design features include: 

Inside-out” space flow – Deliveries are unloaded at the front for visibility and transparency. Children enter and exit at the side of the building, within the highest security perimeter ring with limited public view. 

Natural light and fresh air – Punched hole windows allow natural light, and high-efficiency systems add fresh air to nurture a sense of well-being. 

Social design – Settings for group play and dining create an overall feeling of community, and influence children’s behavior and comfort level. 

Third place” – The building serves as a primary place that is outside of school and home life for children. This teaches them places can be safe, inspiring and fun. 

May/June 2020 Digital Issue


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