Collaborative design: outdoor environments for veterans with PTSD

Amy Wagenfeld (Department of Occupational Therapy, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Studio Sprout, Jupiter, Florida, USA)
Connie Roy‐Fisher (Studio Sprout, Jupiter, Florida, USA)
Carolyn Mitchell (Planning, Facilities and Sciences, The Louis Berger Group, Inc., Washington, District of Columbia, USA)


ISSN: 0263-2772

Publication date: 28 June 2013



Providing veterans diagnosed with post‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), their families, and staff opportunities to experience physical and mental restoration in outdoor environments designed based on evidence is important. The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between evidence‐based collaborative design of outdoor environments and their potential capacity to contribute to a veteran's journey to wellness.


There is no existing precedent in the peer‐reviewed literature linking positive health outcomes associated with outdoor environments to veterans with PTSD. This review of the literature is conceptualized as a means to extrapolate these benefits to this unique population.


Access to nature improves physiological and psychological health outcomes. A collaborative design approach ensures that design outcomes meet specific populations' needs.

Practical implications

Many service‐members are reluctant to seek traditional treatments for PTSD, fearing threat to future military service and limited available resources. Alternative treatments, access to sensitively designed outdoor environments and/or a re‐examination of traditional treatments and the environments in which they are provided supports best practice approaches to ameliorating the debilitating effects of this disorder.

Social implications

An integrated design approach blending the skills of landscape architecture and occupational therapy is key to achieve design outcomes that support the healing process to meet the needs of this vulnerable population.


An inter and/or trans‐disciplinary team approach to design and programming of outdoor environments for veterans with PTSD blends landscape architecture with occupational therapy to ensure both form and function are achieved, thus positing positive health outcomes.



Wagenfeld, A., Roy‐Fisher, C. and Mitchell, C. (2013), "Collaborative design: outdoor environments for veterans with PTSD", Facilities, Vol. 31 No. 9/10, pp. 391-406.

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