The Center for Health Design presented its 2015 Changemaker Award to Roger Ulrich, the “father of evidence-based design,” at a Monday morning general session at the Healthcare Design Expo & Conference. Rosalyn Cama, the outgoing board chair for The Center—who also received a lifetime achievement award during the morning’s ceremonies—introduced Ulrich, who spoke for a few minutes before sitting down for a conversation on stage with Kirk Hamilton, professor of architecture at Texas A&M University and co-editor of the HERD Journal.
In accepting the award, Ulrich said, “I think the fact that the Changemaker Award is being given to me—someone who’s trained as a researcher, not a designer or healthcare administrator—is a sign of the increasing role that research has in healthcare design, and the growing importance clients place on EBD.”
Ulrich discussed the evolution of evidence-based design from the publication of his article “View Through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery” in 1984, at which time there was very little published on design and healthcare, through today, when several thousand articles can be referenced. “Has the amount of evidence growth to the point where research knowledge could one day dominate most design decisions in healthcare projects?” he asked. “Certainly not.”
When Hamilton joined Ulrich on stage, they discussed Ulrich’s research and career trajectory to date, with Hamilton citing Ulrich’s literature reviews in 2003 and 2008 as the two testaments of  “the EBD bible.” Ulrich urged the industry to undertake a new survey—“It’s past time for another comprehensive literature review”—citing that it would take a big team and a large grant to make it happen. He was also quick to point out, with a laugh, that he was not volunteering for the job.
Hamilton asked Ulrich for his thoughts on the next wave of interesting environmental research relating to healthcare. He responded with three areas:
• Ways in which EBD can reduce aggressive behavior and violence, which can be applied in mental health facilities and emergency departments
• The role of EBD in operating rooms and other high-technology healthcare environments
• More studies done by medical professionals as “bundle interventions,” studying both care process and environmental design changes in tandem.
Hamilton closed the session by thanking Ulrich and his legacy for “giving us the power to begin to work as rational, research-informed decision makers who could make meaningful choices to improve the health, welfare, experience, and quality of life for everyone who finds themselves in a health facility.”
For more of Ulrich’s views on healthcare design and the future of EBD in his own words, see “Seeds of Change: An Interview with Roger Ulrich.