John S. Dunn Behavioral Sciences Center

UTHealth Houston


Shah Smith & Associates provided mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering consulting services for the UTHealth John S. Dunn Behavioral Sciences Center.

The 220,000 SF facility focused on serving the needs of behavioral health populations in the State of Texas, Harris County and surrounding counties by providing prompt access to mental health care, SUD intervention and treatment, and medical care.

This new model for the treatment of patients met the strategic goal of serving the behavioral health community in a comprehensive integrated treatment program while addressing the need for additional acute treatment beds within the geographical area of Harris and adjacent counties.  The facility serves as the lead in addressing immediate crisis situations and transitioning patients from the hospital environment into community-based psychiatric programs. It also enhances educational opportunities and aims to serve as the nexus for behavioral health research in the region through its association with the University of Texas System in support of programs and services focused on research, prevention, and detection of mental disorders and disabilities.

This facility contains:

  • 264 Beds
  • 204 Patient Rooms
  • Clinics
  • Diagnostic and Research Facilities
  • Medical Isolation Suite
  • Therapy Hall
  • Meeting and Education Center
  • Kitchen / Café
  • Courts / Holding Rooms
  • Pharmacy
  • Offices and Conference Rooms

The mechanical systems consist of air-cooled chillers and pumps with primary/secondary loops with N+1 redundancy.  Similarly, gas fired heating hot water boilers and pumps with VFDs will provide N+1 redundancy.  Pretreatment outside air handler with energy recovery cubes will supply air to building VAV air handler system with VAV terminal boxes containing hot water coils.

The facility is be served from two 12.47kV, utility overhead lines.  Each circuit serves 15kV auto transfer switch via underground ductbank and then serves a 12.47kV-480Y / 277V, pad mounted transformer sized for all building loads with N+1 redundancy.  On loss of power to either of the two 12.47kV circuits, the ATS will switch to second source. One 2000 KW diesel generator and Life Safety and critical branch distribution is planned.  All lighting will be LED.

Domestic water is supplied to a surge tank with pumps for distribution. The facility has water softeners for soft water.  Domestic hot water is generated by multiple gas fired water condensing heaters with N+1 redundancy.  Condensate from air handlers is routed to building storm drain to a storage tank for irrigation.

The patient rooms and specific areas have anti-ligature plumbing fixtures, sprinkler heads, tamper proof ceiling diffusers, light fixtures and receptacles.

Photo Courtesy of Vaughn Construction.

Site Owner

UTHealth Houston


Houston, TX

Project Cost


Project Completion



Behavioral Health