How Stephanie Ireland Found her Niche in Designing Adolescent Psychiatric Facilities

Strict rules and regulations may be a barrier for some, but for Stephanie Ireland, they offered an opportunity to become a go-to architect in a niche category—designing adolescent psychiatric facilities.

By Tessa Cooper

May 2020

Stephanie Ireland Springfield MO
Photo by Brandon AlmsStephanie Ireland, CEO of Ireland Architects Purchase Photo

The Problem

Due to rigorous safety regulations, health care industries set high standards for architecture firms they hire to design medical buildings, especially adolescent psychiatric facilities. After talking with CEOs of several in-patient mental health facilities, Stephanie Ireland, CEO of Ireland Architects, learned there is a large need for more of these institutions, but safety regulations can be complicated.

The Big Idea

Ireland knew she could design adolescent psychiatric facilities if she learned the rules and regulations. She launched her career by working on small projects for St. John’s Hospital, now Mercy Springfield Communities. This positioned her to take on bigger projects for more niche facilities, including Lakeland Behavioral Health System, a psychiatric facility serving children and teens.

The Learning Curve

Ireland didn’t want to be restricted to designing medical facilities just in Missouri, so she earned her master’s in architecture in order to take on projects in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and Illinois. She chose Boston Architectural College because at the time, it was the only architecture school offering a mostly online degree, which allowed Ireland to build her career in southwest Missouri.

The Takeaway

Executing each medical project and earning her masters degree positioned Ireland and Ireland Architects to earn competitive projects in the Midwest and beyond. “I really enjoy the field because it’s really challenging, and it’s always changing, and that’s what I like,” she says.