Nicholas Watkins, PhD
Director of research, HOK (New York)

Who he is: Watkins has been with HOK for five years, focusing on the interaction between people and the built environment, and how those environments can contribute to physical and psychological well-being. He has served as chair of the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) and currently serves on its board. He also advocates design research as an instructor at the New York School of Interior Design and has published and presented his work across numerous platforms in the healthcare realm.

Year in review: As the principal researcher and lead investigator on project research for HOK, Watkins’ healthcare work over the past 12 months included published studies of same-handed inpatient units and decentralized nursing strategies, with implications for new inpatient room, operating room, and nurses’ station layouts. He has co-led development of evidence-based design guidelines and design research processes for such systems as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Methodist Hospital System in Houston, and Mercy Health System in Illinois and Wisconsin. In addition, he spearheaded and continues to collaborate on the EDRA CORE program, which, when launched, will assess and recognize design research conducted during project delivery.

What’s next: Watkins is finding more and more of his workload to be dedicated to designing and managing research that assesses outpatient facilities, along with several facility types across entire healthcare systems.  He is co-author of a paper to be published for the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation that aims to provide a primer and roadmap to designers and engineers on how to use design research to create “accountable design for accountable care.” The paper uses inpatient units as a case study.


THE HCD 10 (Click any winner's name for more information):

  • Architect: Joan Saba, partner, NBBJ (New York)
  • Association/foundation executive: Tammy Thompson, president and founder, Institute for Patient-Centered Design (Atlanta)
  • Construction/building executive: Andrew Quirk, senior vice president and national director, Healthcare Center of Excellence, Skanska USA Building (Nashville)
  • Researcher: Nicholas Watkins, director of research, HOK (New York)
  • Facility manager: Dennis Monty, director of facilities planning, compliance, and special projects, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston)
  • Interior designer: Jean Hansen, senior professional associate and sustainable interiors manager, HDR Architecture (San Francisco)
  • Owner: Gary Kusnierz, vice president, performance excellence, Ministry Health Care (Menasha, Wis.)
  • Educator: Frank Zilm, Chester Dean lecturer on healthcare design, University of Kansas School of Architecture, Design & Planning
  • Rising star (under 40): Natalie Miovski, principal and director of healthcare, EwingCole (Philadelphia)
  • Firm of the year: NBBJ (headquartered in Seattle).