Evidence Based Design

Architects are in the business of imagining our future buildings. They are trained to think laterally in order to come up with different solutions to various building problems. Over time these creative and at times wildly different solutions get adopted and modified to suit new applications. Whilst it might seem logical that this process of continual innovation will in itself lead to better buildings, it is not really good enough in this day and age to presume this to be the case.

A growing area of interest amongst architects is the field of Evidence Based Design. This interest has come about through a desire to know more about the real and scientifically provable benefits of good design. The process to facilitate what is known as Evidence Based Design (EBD) is to create feedback loop of design, observe, analyse and then design the next project having learnt the lessons from all the previous projects.

Recently a new website EBDJournal.com has been launched as an information resource for architects and the wider public interested in evidence based design. The website has some fascinating insights into the use and uptake of evidence based design as well as some detailed pieces on specific building types such as aged care facilities and offices.

The most obvious example of EBD being used in a Melbourne project is the Royal Children’s Hospital by the Billard Leece Partnership and Bates Smart. Kristen Whittle, a Director with Bates Smart in an interview by Fiona Mackrell on the website ArtsHub discussed the use of design research for the award winning project.

“The project design drew heavily on the work of international psychologists and researchers such as Roger Ulrich evidence-based design theories, who studied the value of ‘a view’ and of ‘a picture’ on health outcomes on foreshortening stays in hospital. ‘They proved that over time those rooms that had better views and more access to nature… have better health outcomes.”

Kristen Whittle, Co-Director Bates Smart

The Royal Children's Hospital Facade

The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne

Research can also be used to debunk commonly held beliefs that are not scientifically based. One of the more commonly misunderstood relationships between design decisions and resulting outcomes resolves around the use of colour in health care buildings. On this topic the EBD Journal clarifies several myths that seem to spread like office gossip at the water cooler. Perhaps their most important take home message is this:

Whilst there is some evidence to suggest that colour applications can affect the perceptual experience and performance of people in particular environments, there is not sufficient evidence to support direct linkages between particular colours and health outcomes of people.

EBD Journal, Click here for full story and references

This is a critical piece of information for any architect working on health care projects. So to put it together with the research from Roger Ulrich, views to nature have a provable benefit to the health outcomes of patients in hospitals, whilst the use of specific colours DO NOT have proven health benefits.

Evidence based design is not limited to health care projects but has applications across building type and size. As a case in point, Atelier Red + Black have developed their own website to investigate Australia’s existing building stock, as evaluated by the people who use it. Rate My Building is aimed at finding out how people perceive their house, town house, apartment or office. The questions directly relate to the user experience and cover such topics as indoor environment quality, functionality, building defects and overall satisfaction levels.

Atelier Red + Black hope that by collecting this data, specific improvements can be made to the future design of buildings by providing measurable feedback to the wider architecture profession. To participate in this research please visit www.ratemybuilding.com.au or click on the icon below to be taken through to the new website. Once there take a 5 minute survey of your home and office.


Architecture is for Everyone

About Michael Smith

Architect and Director of Atelier Red + Black based in Melbourne, Australia
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