Five comments about evidence-based design
Why five comments? I really don't know—maybe it's what easily fits into a column this length. Heaven knows it's possible to write articles, white papers, books, and super-sized tomes about the subject these days. I would say, conservatively, that half our recent HEALTHCARE DESIGN.07 conference in November was given over to various iterations of evidence-based design. But, since I'm rapidly running out of space, I'll start with my five comments.
1. I find it fascinating how the concept of “evidence-based,” which is research-oriented, is playing out in a field that relies so heavily on visual references. Architects and designers are expert at translating how something feels or works for individuals into bricks-and-mortar reality. But what if they have to “hit the books”? Hiring someone comfortable with this approach might be a requirement for design firms in the future. Meanwhile, there are a growing number of resources out there to assist them, including The Center for Health Design's Evidence-Based Design Assessment and Certification (EDAC) program starting next month.
2. When we talk about “evidence,” does it necessarily apply only to patient rooms and staff areas? An HEALTHCARE DESIGN.07 attendee reviewing her experience there wrote me that “evidence-based” needs to take building systems into account as well, such as HVAC, vertical and horizontal transportation, and accommodations for IT and high-technology. Designers are always investigating the latest and greatest technologies, but an evidence-based approach wouldn't hurt. I think she has a point.
3. The “pure” evidence-based approach, based on the scholarly journal, has hit the field with a splash with the advent of a new journal produced by our parent company Vendome Group and The Center for Health Design called HERD (Health Environments Research & Design Journal), unveiled at the November conference. This is research in its classic form applied to the building arts in healthcare, and will set new standards for intellectual rigor in this field. I encourage readers to subscribe (see http://www.herdjournal.com for more information) and contribute to it. This is really not as academically exotic as it seems…
4. …as witness, for example, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center research project described at the conference by University investigators. Investigators there are actually running a controlled study (the ultimate in “evidence”) of the impact of healthcare design innovations by comparing three new, just-built clinical units with one that remained in the traditional hospital setting in terms of patient/staff perception and, eventually, clinical outcomes. It's really the traditional postoccupancy evaluation taken to a new level of formality, and about as concretely “evidence-based” as any designer would want.
5. We shouldn't be afraid of evidence-based, nor should we allow it to become a cliché. It is time to give evidence-based approaches a full hearing, lots of thinking through, dedicated application, and complete attention. And when we find studies concluding that “further research is needed,” a little patience wouldn't hurt either. HD
RICHARD L. PECK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
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The entry on p. 132 of the September 2007 Architectural Showcase issue of HEALTHCARE DESIGN omitted mention of a designer involved in the project, The University of New Mexico Cancer Center, by Rohde May Keller McNamara Architecture, PC (Architect of Record) and VOA Associates Incorporated. Added to the Design Team should be Brandon Lipman, AIA, LEED AP, Principal of Loebl Schlossman & Hackl.
HEALTHCARE DESIGN reminds entrants to future Showcases that the submitting firms are responsible for the accuracy and completeness of their submissions, and HEALTHCARE DESIGN is not obligated to make postpublication changes. We look forward to all submissions for next year's Architectural Showcase and to publishing those that pass the HEALTHCARE DESIGN panel's review.