evidence-based design for supportive environments



What is Evidence-Based Design (EBD)?


Evidence-Based Design (EBD) is the process of basing decisions about the built environment on credible research to achieve the best possible outcomes. In an evidence-based design project, clients and designers set specific, measurable goals at the outset, and are committed to evaluating the project to see how well it meets those goals, whether the objective is to reduce turn-over rates of employees or shorten illness and injury recovery times.

EBD has three main components: doing the research, testing and seeing the results. Many of us think of these components as the scientific method we learned in grade school where experimentation and outcomes influence whether our hypothesis becomes an accepted conclusion. EBD depends upon multiple research methods to achieve a balance of objective, quantitative studies, with interviews and observation.

EBD Outcomes:

WS EBD Outcomes graphic



Why is EBD important to education projects?


Although evidence-based design has its roots in and is therefor most often associated with healthcare design, the underlying concept of using research to guide design decisions is critical when working in children’s environments. Children’s educational environments are not limited to school facilities and formal playgrounds but also include childcare centers, libraries, and museums that include specific programming and spaces for children. Many studies link child learning patterns and behavior with elements of their environment including colors, access to natural light, acoustics, as well as classroom and playground furniture/feature design.

Educational outcomes:

  • improved cognitive function
  • greater attention capacities and concentration levels
  • higher academic performance
  • improved test scores
  • better motor coordination
  • better impulse control
  • greater environmental understanding


Why is EBD important to community and housing projects?


The process of evidence-based design is especially useful when working on community focused and housing development projects. EBD depends upon multiple research methods to achieve a balance of objective, quantitative studies, with interviews and observation. Facilitation of community and resident input is critical to the design process where desired outcomes such as property value and community acceptance goals that are met by satisfying the needs of diverse individuals with more diffuse goals that are often minimally measured in a classic design process. There are many ways practice evidence based design, depending upon budget, context, and project scope. We produce succinct, visual, compelling, and relevant evidence to guide our client’s decision making.

General outcomes in community and housing design:

  • increased safety and accessibility
  • promotes well-being and functionality
  • reduced stress, anxiety and depression levels
  • provides for greater social interaction and support
  • increased community cohesion
  • greater sense of ownership and pride
  • reduced costs associated with property damage
  • improved market share
  • increased property values


Why is EBD important to healthcare projects?


“The healthcare environment is a work environment for the staff, a healing environment for patients and families, a business environment for the provision of healthcare, and a cultural environment for the organization to fulfill its mission and vision” (Stichler, 2007). This complex system is intimately linked to the facilities and campuses where healthcare is administered. Inefficiencies in building layouts and insensitive campus landscapes can lead to difficulty in wayfinding, intimidation and disorientation, interruptions in staff workflow, and generally higher levels of stress for all users. In a healthcare context increased stress has a very real impact on both patient survival/recovery and the likelihood of costly mistakes.

The mission of evidence-based design in healthcare is to transform all hospital settings into healing environments where the buildings and surrounding campus actively contribute to the health and wellbeing of patients, family, and staff. In this view the infrastructure itself is more than a passive background and instead becomes a part of the healing process.

Stichler, J.F., & Hamilton, K.D. (2008). Evidence-based design: What is it? Health Environments Research and Design, 1(2), 3-4.


Why choose to work with evidence-based designers?


Our methodology for developing design solutions is rooted in research, data collection and data assessment, to maximize the likelihood of achieving a client’s goals. The field of EBD devotes time to detailed studies and is committed to developing metrics that carefully link a particular design characteristic to a specific result. Our goal is to use careful interventions in facilities and landscape design to encourage clients to see the built environment as active tools for achieving organizational goals. The amount of credible, reviewed and accessible research keeps growing!


What is included in an EBD process?


Included in the Evidence-based Design process are the following eight steps:

  • Define evidence-based goals and objectives.
  • Identify sources for relevant evidence.
  • Critically interpret relevant evidence.
  • Create and innovate evidence-based design concepts.
  • Develop a hypothesis.
  • Collect baseline performance measures.
  • Monitor implementation of design and construction.
  • Measure post-occupancy performance results.

©2015 The Center for Health Design. Moving Healthcare Forward.

WS EBD Process graphic

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