Built environment, adaptations and networks

This section aims to illustrate one of the core themes in the PIE model; the way that the buildings we use provide not just convenience and shelter, but 'social spaces' - opportunities for person-to-person interactions - and that they can be thoughtfully designed to maximise the opportunities.

These 'social spaces' are not just the obviously communal areas - TV rooms or sitting rooms etc - intended for socialising. They include all the kinds of interactions - staff to user, and user to user. The physical condition of the building and furnishings is then important - but it is only one aspect of the 'messages' that the building gives off. 

We begin with two very handy checklists  that can offer prompts to the imagination over how the building, lighting, signage and sound can convey an impression. These are followed by a string of examples of these ideas applied in practice.

Further material

  • Introducing the PIE approach
  • Built environment and adaptations
  • Using the whole environment:
  • PIEs, outreach and community
  • PIEs in 'single site' Housing First
  • PIEs in clinical work
  • 'Psychologically informed business environments'
  • Whole systems change
  • PIE Techniques
  • PIEs and ‘exclusion- informed research’


'Well-being by design: a guide' is a very useful handy tool, developed by Genesis Housing Association and based on earlier research on the impact of purposive design of the physical environment. It allows staff of a service to ‘walk through’ - usually literally - their building, to ask themselves 

Similar in intent, but sufficiently different for the two to work well together, the 'Trauma Informed environments checklist' produced by Design for Homelessness in Florida  uses the language of trauma, but is otherwise entirely in spirit. As a checklist, it also allows a numerical scoring. 

 Highwater House, in Norwich, East Anglia, was already established as a forward-thinking care home, with policies of elastic tolerance (that deserve describing elsewhere) The annual report of 2017 describes - with statistics - a marked reduction in untoward incidents after PIE training for their staff, leading to the decision to close the staff office at night, so that staff and residents socialised together in the communal spaces.  There is probably no more low cost adaptation than this. 

By contrast, King George’s Hostel in Westminster made major changes to the building, in order to be able to respond to the rapidly changing client groups that they were finding, as new substance abuse issues hit the street. This need and ability to change rapidly reflects King George's role as a hostel in the very centre of London, one of many servicing that borough. This example illustrates not just the creative thinking on use of the building, but also the importance of recognising the role of any one service in the  "PIE of pathways'

Duneddin Canmore, in Edinburgh, made very similar changes to their large hostel, to turn it into self contained clusters within the building.

Ypeople’s services cover the whole of Scotland, from Glasgow to Orkney. They chose to interpret the PIE model for their client group by developing the clubhouse model

In Seattle.....

A walk in the park – Paula Corcoran;