At the start of the New Year, I took upon myself the task of skinny-ing up the to-do lists in my life. Not so much the more mundane list, but the more weighted of the two: the list of professional-development endeavors. One item, which sat on the development list for far too long, was taking the Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC) exam.

The EDAC exam sprang from The Center for Health Design as “an educational and assessment program that tests individuals on their understanding of how to base healthcare building design decisions on credible research evidence and project evaluation results.” Disseminating a certification and accreditation exam would provide a great leap towards legitimizing the field of evidence-based design (EBD) or the process of basing decisions about the built environment on credible research to achieve the best possible outcomes.

A year prior to the release of the exam in the spring of 2009, I completed my graduate thesis based on the implementation of EBD within the behavioral healthcare setting. That summer, stories of an accreditation exam for EBD began to circulate in our firm. In October 2008, during my first attendance at the HEALTHCARE DESIGN conference, the first EDAC study guide was released. I excitedly snagged a copy the first day. My interest in infusing design with research never quelled between October 2008 and 2010, but the months had seen a slip in the exam’s priority.

Until the day I resolved to get the list under control.

I submitted the application for the exam—the first step—awaited my approval, and called the testing center for a test date in a month’s time. Now began the phase of preparation.

Luckily, several events in my design education and professional culture provided a jump-start. I studied principles of EBD and took classes on action-based research during my graduate studies. Additionally, Perkins+Will employs professional researchers and EBD-focused leaders in several offices, including the Washington D.C. location. Therefore, my background and day-to-day activities supported goals of the EDAC exam.

To infuse my knowledge base, I also prepared for the exam through reading. I briefly read through the three official EDAC study guides and the “Practitioner’s Guide to Evidence-Based Design”. Next, I immersed myself in "A Review of the Research Literature on Evidence-Based Healthcare Design” from the Health Environments Research and Design (HERD) Journal 2008 by Ulrich, et al.

I entered the examination with a base knowledge of research processes (see “The Right Method for the Right Data: An introduction to research methods” posted in July 2009), and an understanding of the healthcare environment’s effects on our mental, physical, and emotional health. And in just under 90 minutes, I had a lightened to-do list, where the letters “EDAC” moved from the list to a welcomed place in my signature.

For me, the accomplishment of passing the exam means I am on the right track of designing spaces that heal based on evidence. And for my team, it means we have opportunities for distinguishing ourselves in the field of healthcare design.

I believe in EBD and the goals of the EDAC exam because implementing evidence into our design decisions is an interior designer’s opportunity to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public.