Debra LevinThe evidence-based design (EBD) process has been instrumental in enabling architecture and design firms, as well as healthcare provider organizations, to make great strides in quantifying the return on their design investments.

A growing legion of certified EBD practitioners continually adds to the body of evidence supporting the EBD value proposition—that is, that design choices made based on proven research can positively impact a wide range of health, wellness, safety, and financial outcomes.

While these choices may incur additional upfront costs, those costs are far outweighed by both near- and long-term savings and improvements.

Evidence-based design is worth the upfront cost

However, even with all of EBD’s demonstrated efficacy in producing a range of positive outcomes, current economic uncertainties, rising labor and materials costs, and potential downsizing of capital budgets threaten to stall or even reverse the progress made in utilizing EBD practices. There will likely be added pressure to reduce upfront project expenditures, even at the cost of higher long-term operational costs.

Because EBD is an upfront cost, it’s a tempting target for cost-cutting efforts.

Calling for more research on building design outcomes

Earlier this summer, The Center for Health Design’s leadership team gathered for a few days to consider healthcare’s gathering financial storm and explore strategies for addressing our industry’s need to better educate, measure, and define the value of design and the roles we all play in helping to quantify that value.

We recognized that while we have made a lot of progress educating the industry, and building and communicating the business case for design, we need significantly more organizations doing more research to support this work.

Over the next few years, one of our key goals at The Center is to increase the measurement and sharing of building design outcomes and expand the community of people who understand and leverage EBD’s power. And fortunately, there’s help on the horizon.

The use of technology to measure building performance has become increasingly important and leverages a new generation of data gathering we’ve only just begun to harness.

We’ve seen how sensor technology has evolved and can collect real-time and continuous data on various building parameters.

Artificial intelligence-powered data analytics can process large datasets and identify patterns. And virtual replicas of physical buildings are being created through digital twin technology. This enables testing to optimize designs before construction or retrofitting even begins.

In time, the goal is to quantify, at a much larger scale, the relationship between upfront investment in capital projects and long-term operational costs including improved patient outcomes, enhanced staff productivity and satisfaction, and operational cost reduction. Success will take many forms and rely on many partnerships.

We believe in the power of design and the power of quantifying design in support of overall improved health. We look forward to working with our healthcare design community to ensure EBD’s ongoing and enhanced role.

Debra Levin is president and CEO of The Center for Health Design. She can be reached at dlevin@healthdesign.org.