2019 Rising Star: Brian Giebink, AIA, EDAC, LEED AP BD+C, architect, behavioral health planner, HDR (Minneapolis)

Brian Giebink began working for HDR shortly after graduating from the University of Kansas, later relocating to Minnesota to work specifically in healthcare. There, he had the opportunity to become involved in several significant behavioral health projects across North America. While working on these projects, Giebink discovered the intricacies and challenges related to designing therapeutic, safe, and restorative behavioral health environments, which inspired him to focus his energy on behavioral health design and planning. Currently, he leads the behavioral health design studio at HDR and shares his knowledge through various conferences and events.

Healthcare Design: What drew you to a career in healthcare design?
Giebink: I had an internship with a design firm while an undergrad that introduced me to the idea of healthcare design. The experience inspired me to enroll in the University of Kansas Health and Wellness Design program. There, I learned about the complex nature of healthcare facilities and the opportunity within healthcare design to make a positive and lasting impact on people’s lives. Working alongside some of the world’s best healthcare architects and designers at HDR early in my career sealed the deal, and now I can see the impact our design work has every day.

What’s one recent project that you’re most proud of?
Some of the most rewarding work is when my background in behavioral health design has an influence on spaces outside of the traditional healthcare setting. One example is a new K-6 school we designed for Spero Academy in Minneapolis that excels in providing special education services to children with autism and other learning disabilities. As the lead design architect, I worked closely with our design team, Spero Academy, and the contractor to ensure the building was safe, durable, comfortable, and inclusive for the student population. The success we’ve seen at Spero Academy perfectly illustrates why we need to be mindful of all abilities and disabilities in every space we design.

What do you think is the number one issue facing the healthcare design industry in 2019?
From a behavioral health perspective, I think access to quality, timely, and appropriate care is the number one issue facing the healthcare industry right now. In almost all of the projects I’ve worked on lately, there’s an underlying issue of access to care that these new projects are trying to address. The challenge is that the gaps in care are so large and profit margins so slim that even the most thoughtful solutions, while significantly improving quality and access, are only filling a small part of the larger gaps in our communities. Because of limited or no access to appropriate care in many communities, people with mental and behavioral health disorders receive care in settings that are ill-equipped or inappropriate for their specific health needs.

What’s one idea you have for overcoming that problem?
Specifically related to behavioral healthcare, the number of people suffering from untreated mental health and substance abuse disorders is daunting because of a lack of access to both care and proper facilities. We need to align the right teams of stakeholders, influencers, and decision-makers to work together to develop solutions in every community that will fill gaps in the continuum of care. Depending on need, this could mean an entire campus or a single building that integrates components of housing, education, community engagement, medical and behavioral healthcare, and long-term care. While we’ve seen a few communities around the country start to do this, we need to expand on what has been done to build a model that’s repeatable, adaptable, and affordable so every community can provide access to the full continuum of care.