University of the Arts London
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Metal Bunk Bed

online resource
posted on 2024-04-29, 12:21 authored by Lorraine Gamman, Adam Thorpe

Metal Single Bed & Bunk Bed

This product was in prototyping and testing with HMPPS/PSPI.

These metal bed designs offer a modern update to the current prison beds which were consistently identified as one of the least liked products by prisoners and staff.​

  • Material: Tube steel, perforated sheet metal
  • Developed by Senior Furniture Designer, Rock Galpin who participated in the co-design sessions at HMP Standford Hill.

Developed by Senior Furniture Designer, Rock Galpin who participated in the co-design sessions at HMP Standford Hill.


Not much has changed in the design of the metal prison cell beds in decades. However durable, for prisoners and staff, they are some of the most disliked furniture items because of safety and comfort. In terms of safety, they are a massive ligature problem, with one prison staffer stating:

"I don't know if it's possible to remove ligature from a cell, but the metal beds – I don't know if you could design something with more ligature points. It's just the perfect suicide machine. You can count them all up and there's probably a hundred ligature and tie off points. Easily. The beds are quite strong and [prisoners] could probably remove three or four of the cross bars underneath the mattress and you wouldn't know until it's too late."

-Staff commenting on the current metal beds.

Also, with some effort and time, pieces of the metal bed (e.g. bars and metal straps) can be unbolted and broken off and used as horrific weapons.

"Definitely the bed. Absolutely diabolical...With the metal [lattice] on those beds, I've seen the [metal straps] being snapped out and used as machetes and stuff. Properly sharpened up as well."

-Prisoner commenting on the furniture he dislikes the most: the current metal beds.​

In terms of comfort, the current metal bed designs coupled with deteriorating mattresses, leads to poor sleep and physical ailments like bad backs, and hip and neck issues. An obvious problem is the metal bed base which is made of a lattice of metal straps. Over time these straps permanently deform under body weight. Coupled with the foam mattresses that compress and provide little support, prisoners say it's basically like sleeping directly on the metal. The bunk bed ladder is also a problem because its small bars are uncomfortable to step on and easy to slip off of. The sagging top bunk also takes away clearance on the bottom bunk, which is only about a meter to begin with.

​Why a New Metal Bed?

When so much furniture is abused and broken, metal beds have proven to be the most robust material and can be recycled. The current metal bed design has glaring design and construction flaws, but that does not mean that metal beds are a bad option, on the contrary. With a complete redesign, many issues of safety and comfort can be addressed, and human centered elements connected with mental and physical health can be designed in to improve wellbeing. After participating in the co-design workshops at HMP Standford Hill and a number of prison visits, Senior Furniture Designer, Rock Galpin, designed this new metal bunk bed and bed collection with the remit to reduce harm and fatalities by providing a safer bed with wellbeing at the centre.

Final Design

The New Metal Bunk Bed Proposal

This new bed design provides a clean and modern, yet deliberately softer, 'homely' aesthetic for a furniture item that historically has been viewed as clinical and austere. Safety, comfort, personal space and privacy have been given utmost care and consideration reflected by the decision to use perforated sheet metal panels that reduce ligature and improve mattress support, whilst creating new opportunities for personalisation without reducing HMP's visibility requirements.

Improves Safety & Ergonomics by:​

Designing out known ligature points by use of curved frames, angled lines, sloping planes and perforated panels that close gaps in the frame that are obvious tie points.

Unlike the current metal beds, this new frame can be bolt-fixed to the wall;

Replaces the metal lattice base with a perforated metal panel which provides more ergonomic support and completely eliminates the possibility of using of metal straps as weapons;

Increased clearance between top and bottom bunk;

Improves ladder functionality and safety with wider, deeper steps that are more gentle on feet and a shape that reduces ligature points;

Reduces fall hazards by fixing the top bunk rail – the current rail is removable meaning it can also be used as a weapon;

All bolts are flush and/or tamper proof.

Improves Wellbeing by:​

  • Providing more privacy without compromising visibility requirements;​
  • Enhances personalisation of the cell with the ability to pin up pictures to the perforated metal with safe plastic fasteners.

Technical Specifications


  • Tubular steel and perforated sheet metal​​


Usage metrics

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