Many people believe that ‘purpose-built’ facilities will diminish some of the challenging behaviours exhibited by older people with dementia or psychiatric conditions. This study aimed to explore and understand what hands-on nurses in psychogeriatric assessment units experience and think of the built environment as a part of their day to day work. Twenty-one unstructured interviews were conducted with nurses at three psychogeriatric assessment units. The units ranged in style from an ancient adapted building to a contemporary 'purpose-built' facility. A critical hermeneutics derived from Gadamer was used to explore the interviews. It found that nurses think of the built environment in relation to the care needs of their patients, and feel bureaucratic restrictions in using the built environment more keenly than the shortcomings of the built environment itself. Nurses saw themselves and their patients as 'outcasts' or victims of those with money and power. The study concludes with suggestions for challenging the status quo, but also considers that being regarded as 'outcasts' allows opportunities to avoid being overly impressed by technological marvels.