Using the whole environment (1)

A lot of ground to cover (1)

In the phrase 'a psychologically informed environment', that single word 'environment' has a lot of ground to cover. Here, we will be looking primarily at the actual buildings that we use - for those that do.

In part two (HERE) we will cover use of the surrounding environment, and the development of networks.


The built environment and its 'social spaces'

When the phrase was first coined, the environments we mainly thought of were the buildings in which we work.  However, the early authors were keen to establish quickly that it was not just the physical condition of the built environment that we were looking at.

Buildings were 'social spaces' - meaning not just that they had designated rooms or areas where residents could 'socialise', but that ALL spaces carried some human meaning, some kind of message.   As the Boex brothers put it, in their article, 'every corridor is a rite of passage'.

Varying levels of access to different spaces also had a huge impact on how users used the space.  Can a resident enter all rooms, or only some? Can the staff of a service enter a resident's rooms when needed, or only with the consent of the resident? The actual use of the spaces we have is as or more significant than the dimensions or furnishing.


Making changes

We knew of some services that had made quite significant changes and adaptations to their buildings, to change the feel of the place. But even such issues as colour schemes, lighting, and in particular the way signs are used to give information or instructions, can radically change the atmosphere of a building.

The point here is that, with a little thought  - and often at very little cost - you can get all the 'un-spoken messages' in the environment working for you.  As we suggested in (can we have) 'Short term services as PIEs?' (HERE), sometimes the building has to do a lot of the talking.

For a very useful run through of many of the issues in building design, we recommend the video on a discussion and extensive Q&A with Jill Pable of Design Resources for Homelessness, HERE

For ideas on the creative use of surrounding environments, and the embedding of any one service and unit in wider networks in services, see:  Using the whole environment (2) : HERE

Further background reading/listening/viewing

Using the whole environment

Paula Corcoran on (audio) 'creative use of the surrounding environment' :  HERE

Supporting sex workers - the GAP project : HERE

Bus, tram, unicorn - Why my car is a psychologically informed environment : HERE

Trauma-informed design, and working with the built environment : HERE


PIEs case studies – a selection of new and used material

NB: this collection of pages, and selection of examples, is incomplete. We are constantly gathering new material;  and these links and this material will be built up in stages, and sometimes revised. But the most relevant themes here are:

  • Built environment and adaptations : HERE
  • Using the whole environment (2):  HERE
  • Outreach, pathways, and environments without buildings : HERE
  • PIEs, communities and a sense of belonging : HERE
  • Clubhouses, cores, and 'campus models' ; HERE
  • 'Psychologically informed business environments' : HERE

You will very likely find it more useful to scan the list by theme, with specific sub-sections, in which this same selection is re-shuffled and each individual example appears  - with sometimes more additional examples - under one or (often several) more useful headings.

For a similar approach (and inevitably some overlapping material) see also: Recently added, in the Library : HERE