Evidence-based design has been sweeping the design industry on a global level.  It has become a heavily used tag line for many professionals, in an effort to increase their credibility with clients and gain new business; but what is evidence-based design?

Evidence-based design in a nutshell


The Center for Health Design defines Evidence-based design (EBD) as the process of basing decisions about the built environment on credible research to achieve the best possible outcomes.  Evidence-based design has its roots in health care but can be applied in any market, like education, hospitality, or corporate environments.

Design professionals have a responsibility to make informed decisions based on their education and experience.  They successfully implement that practice on a regular basis, but with EBD they can put hard numbers to those decisions and evaluate outcomes to determine the best design.  Most design professionals make recommendations using a shadowed version of EBD, offering space plans that increase employee efficiency, color palettes that reduce stress, and material selections that aide infection control efforts.  But is there scientific data behind these recommendations, or is this just accepted as true without question?  Have studies been conducted by 3rd party researchers proving these claims?  Can they show correlations between the design decisions and human behavior or patient recovery rates?

Evidence-based design at work

The design industry is being flooded with credible research that professionals can now use to influence their design decisions.  Take this, for example:  a designer informs clients that their decision to use single patient rooms can reduce hospital acquired infections, resulting in higher patient satisfaction, decreased length of stay, and less claims.  But with EBD, the design professional can also offer a percentage of infection and claim reduction, directly associating a return on investment dollar amount with a design decision.  Expectations are greater than ever and patients and insurance companies are no longer willing to pay medical providers for harm they cause.  Clients make sure that design professionals share in these new expectations, holding them directly accountable for negative outcomes.

It is vital to understand the importance of investing in a design team that can interpret data correctly.  Going back to our example, multiple studies show that single patient rooms are without a doubt a positive solution for healing environments, but they’re actually not an effective solution for psychiatric environments where interaction is essential.  The act of simply regurgitating data and applying it to any project could be detrimental to the design and overall outcome, and this is where evidence-based design steps in.  In order for evidence-based design to be successful, the team must be able to apply research data correctly and creatively to the client’s project scope.

Cross your Ts and dot your Is with EBD

The design profession recognizes that clients take great risks when making design decisions, often having to defend those decisions to a group of board members whose primary role, more often than not, is to monitor the bottom line.  By incorporating evidence-based design into a project, the professional can ensure that the client is secure in their decisions and has the best possible design solution for their project, transforming what was once an informed decision into a data driven fact.

All images via Nurture.com.

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