Evidence-based design is a powerful and important tool for building or renovation investments of any scale. Along with a great process, it helps you design spaces that work.
Understanding Evidence-Based Design
Evidence-based design (EBD) is about creating better buildings through the knowledge and application of proven best practices. EBD is a process that uses concepts identified through the collection and sharing of knowledge learned in the planning, design, construction and, ultimately, building operations. As medical planners and architects, we rely on EBD to build smarter for healthcare providers and patients.
Take a basic example: It is important to mitigate slips and falls, especially in healthcare. EBD includes many studies on this metric and outlines strategies to improve it, through best practices and situational-evidence that informs design choices in things like flooring and room layouts.
When the concept of that basic example is applied to more complex topics, such as temperature and humidity controls, patient access, equipment selection, infection control, and centralized vs de-centralized nursing, EBD makes a big impact.
On a recent critical access addition project, EBD influenced the following layout decisions because we applied research that proves how certain designs would impact the hospital in ways that supported their drivers and goals:
- Headwall-positioned toilet room with continuous handrails and in-route night lighting increases patient safety
- Three-zone room layout included a family zone that encourages relatives to participate in patient care for better outcomes, as well as a staff zone that reduces medical errors
- Inboard toilet room layout maximizes natural light and encourages patient wellness, reduces medication and promotes discharge
- Decentralized nurse stations position staff and supplies closer to the patient and allow for improved sleep quality
Four Biggest Impacts of EBD for Providers and Patients
We’ve been applying the basic principle of EBD for as long as I can remember. In recent years, however, after studying the science and achieving Evidence-based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC), I have a stronger understanding of the impact and possibilities of EBD for healthcare providers and patients. Our healthcare teams are more intentional about using EBD than ever before and certification simply highlighted our goal of an increased quest for knowledge. Of course, the pinnacle point for EBD is an official research project to create new knowledge; something we look forward to with a client who is equally interested, along with a project that presents the right opportunity.
Throughout my experience, there are four key advantages that I think the practicality of EBD offers our clients:
- Saves Time
Incorporating research-based best practices into decision making creates efficiency in the process by streamlining the set of options based on research. Users and stakeholders spend less time in meetings and more time on their full time jobs. Everyone else moves through the process faster as well, keeping the project schedule on time.
- Improves the Design Process
EBD helps the team quickly and clearly define goals and criteria, improve the multi-disciplinary team coordination and create more time to unlock specific design opportunities.
- Avoids Risk
Understanding how to apply best practices in healthcare design reduces the risk of a bad decision. Hindsight is 20/20. When you do something untested, you could trigger a shockwave of additional time and cost in the consequences and resolution of a risky decision.
- Improves Operations
EBD impacts workflow, safety, and patient and staff satisfaction—all important factors to overall success of operations. It also informs decision making about increased investments in areas that will pay off in operating costs for years to come.
Ways To Get Started
When scaled to your project and facility appropriately, incorporating EBD into the process does not have to be expensive or a burden. Here are three critical things you can do to incorporate EBD in your hospital or clinic facility decisions:
- Identify important metrics
- Engage stakeholders early in the process
- Partner with the right, collaborative team
Interested In Learning More?
Below are some helpful resources for understanding EBD in more detail. Additional, more specific information is available to EDAC professionals, and I welcome the opportunity to help connect you with those resources as well. As always, our team of experts is here for you, at any step along the way.
- The Center of Health Design
- Herd Journal
- Evidence-Based Design for Multiple Building Types, by D. Kirk Hamilton, FAIA and David H. Watkins, FAIA
- Evidence-Based Healthcare Design, by Rosalyn Cama
- Healthcare Leadership: Evidence-Based Design Resources for Healthcare Executives
- Art Force’s Blog: 7 Things you might not know about evidence-based design