Upali Nanda, PhD, Associate AIA, EDAC
Vice president and director of research, HKS (Houston); executive director of the Center for Advanced Design Research and Education (CADRE)

Who she is: Throughout her career—spanning from a large healthcare art firm to The Center For Health Design to global architecture firm HKS—Nanda has maintained a laser-sharp focus on quality research and making sure it can be translated into practice. For example, she founded the research arm at American Art Resources (Houston) and helped develop the evidence-based study guides for The Center’s EDAC program and several design checklists. Today, she leads the research activities for all building sectors within HKS and serves as the executive director of CADRE, the firm’s nonprofit research arm. In addition, Nanda is chair of the advisory council for the REDCenter at American Art Resources, co-chair of the Environmental Design Research Association CORE committee, a member of the AIA Design & Health Research Working Group and the EDAC and Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture advisory boards, and an editorial board member for the HERD Journal and the Journal of Hospital Administration.

Year in review: While her colleagues credit her with raising awareness of the importance of evidence-based design within HKS, Nanda’s work is far-reaching. With her team, she developed a research in practice methodology, termed “design diagnostic,” which combines field research with parametric analysis, bringing together environmental psychology and computational design tools that allow teams to conduct diagnostics of a design space in less than three days. Two studies were conducted in 2014 at Promedica Medical Tower in Toledo, Ohio, using this method and resulted in key insight into workflow and location of supplies and nourishment areas within facilities. Nanda also partnered with Zofia Rybkowski, assistant professor at Texas A&M University, on a grant project awarded by the Academy of Architecture for Health Foundation, which focused on developing a comprehensive value analysis framework for Lean design and project delivery by studying the process at Akron Children’s Hospital.

What’s next: Several topics are at the top of Nanda’s research list in 2015, including ambulatory care and understanding how patient and physician expectations are changing with the new healthcare landscape. She’s working on an outpatient care research project called Clinic 20XX, funded by JE Dunn and HKS, which she plans to share with the healthcare design community this spring. Additionally, as part of The Center’s Pebble Project, she’ll be studying the healthcare workplace and linking it to such metrics as employee satisfaction, patient satisfaction regarding employees, care delivery efficiency, and employee safety.

The HCD 10:
  • Architect: Paul Strohm, senior vice president and director of healthcare, HOK (St. Louis)
  • Researcher: Upali Nanda, vice president and director of research, HKS (Houston); executive director of the Center for Advanced Design Research and Education (CADRE)
  • Interior designer: Christine Hester Devens, associate principal and interior project designer, AECOM (Minneapolis)
  • Association/foundation executive: Jennie Evans, 2013-2014 president, Nursing Institute of Healthcare Design (NIHD)
  • Facility manager: Sean Gouvin, director of facilities planning and engineering operations, Baystate Health (Springfield, Mass.)
  • Educator: George Mann, Ronald L. Skaggs, FAIA, Endowed Professor of Health Facilities Design, College of Architecture, Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas)
  • Provider: Matthew Gutwein, president and CEO, Health & Hospital Corp. of Marion County, and Dr. Lisa E. Harris, CEO, Eskenazi Health (Indianapolis)
  • Building professional: Sam Moses, superintendent, Balfour Beatty Construction (Dallas)
  • Rising star: David Grandy, associate vice president and managing director of strategic innovation, HDR (Omaha, Neb.)
  • Organization of the year: ZGF Architects LLP