In 2000, the Center for Health Design launched an initiative called the Pebble Project that sought to bring together forward-thinking healthcare providers, architects, and designers to identify design solutions in the construction of hospitals that would measurably improve patient and worker safety, clinical outcomes, environmental performance, and operational efficiency. In the 14 years since its inception, the results of this program have been far-reaching, as the evidence-based design (EBD) principles that guide the Pebble Project have moved beyond the world of healthcare and are being applied in other markets, such as education.
Given that this still-emerging field emphasizes the use of credible evidence in the design and construction of the buildings we inhabit, one has to wonder why it took so long for the practice to emerge. In medical facilities alone, EBD strategies have been linked to enhanced patient safety, reduced medical errors, decreased need for patient medication, reduced staff injuries, and increased staff efficiency through improved workflow.
What’s not to love? If you’re a designer, not much; if you’re an academic, though, EBD’s lofty claims might cause you to shift a little uncomfortably in your chair. As one paper in the Interdisciplinary Design and Research e-Journal concluded, EBD’s “persuasive overtones suggest a polemic without a true theoretical foundation.”
Nevertheless, architecture and design firms are creating increasingly better facilities as they rely on available research, as these these three case studies from HDR Architecture illustrate (including one on Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, shown at the top of the page). And the ripples continue to expand into areas we’re only beginning to understand.
Image: Courtesy HDR Architecture.