Exterior Windows & Coverings
Exterior windows are a significant issue in any Behavioral healthcare project, whether new construction or remodeling existing space. The main issues are the breakability of the glass (both for self-harm and elopement) as well as the type of window covering to provide.
The newer types of glass that have been developed in response to hurricanes are proving to work well for behavioral health facilities. They will break, but stay in the frames and do not yield shards of glass that patients can use to harm themselves or others. They are also difficult to scratch or deface like polycarbonate (Lexan) and the security window film products. All three of these types of products may be appropriate for some projects. It is important that the facility understand the strengths and weaknesses of each, as well as their relative prices.
Window coverings are an additional concern. The current trend is to not use any curtains in patient accessible areas because of ligature attachment issues. This has made identification of other options necessary. The installation of mini-blinds behind approved safety glazing (to keep patients away from the cords and slats) is one choice that helps retain some “residential” character as well as providing control of light with minimal potential of harm to patients or others. Ligature resistant apparatus to adjust the tilt of the blinds can be provided that only allow staff to make the adjustments or give the control to the patients when appropriate.
One product that addresses both of these issues and works well for both new construction and existing windows is Wausau Window and Wall Systems’ S.E.A.L. Interior Accessory Window. S.E.A.L stands for Sound, Energy, Air and Light control. This is an assembly that can be mounted inside an existing exterior window and either be hinged for easy opening for cleaning or as a removable panel.