Ongoing Research Initiatives

With your support, The Academy on Architecture for Health Foundation funded three research grants for the current research cycle. These studies will provide useful and pragmatic information related to ambulatory care work environments, to the integrated project delivery process, as well as international healthcare. We continue to look for opportunities to partner and fund research that will contribute to the healthcare design practice.

Research funded in 2014

  • Designing Emergency Departments to Provide Efficient, Patient-Centered Care: An Analysis of Split Flow and Sub-Waiting Area Models

  • AuthorsPrinciple Investigator:
    Jennifer Wiler, MD, MBA, FACEP (University of Colorado School of Medicine)
    Co-Primary Investigator: James Lennon
    Negin Houshiarian
    Benjamin Easter
    Mentor: David Vincent
    Consultant: Debajyoti Pati
  • OverviewAs ED crowding has worsened and its deleterious effects catalogued, ED managers have sought numerous process improvement methodologies to improve efficiency. Architects have described changes to the physical design of EDs to achieve the same goal. Unfortunately, these efforts have been largely independent of one another, failing to cross the professional boundaries that impede their dissemination and implementation. The present study, conceived by a joint team of architects and emergency physician managers, explores the essential interaction between emergency department (ED) design and flow with a goal to optimize split-flow patient care systems. The results of the study will offer novel opportunities to understand ED split flow models. By studying the interaction of physical design and flow typologies, we emphasize the need for solutions that account for both variables. In contrast to prior, mostly descriptive studies which analyze only a single factor for a given ED, our study will provide broad generalizability by examining nine different flow-design sub-types across 3 different annual census levels.


  • Mental and Behavioral Health Environments: Measurement of Building Performance

  • AuthorsPrinciple Investigator:
    Mardelle McCuskey Shepley, Ph.D., FAIA, FACHA (Cornell University)
    Angela Watson (Shepley Bulfinch Architects)
    Francis Pitts (architecture+)
    Anne Garrity (Shepley Bulfinch Architects)
    Elizabeth Spellman (Shepley Bulfinch Architects)
    Andrea Fronsman (Cornell University)
    Janhawi Kelkar (Cornell University)
  • OverviewApproximately 60% of people with mental health disorders and 90% of those with addiction disorders are not receiving adequate care. New inpatient facilities are being designed in response to the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which mandates mental health coverage for insurance plans, but research on behavioral health (BH) environments is inadequate to support the design process. This research describes an empirical study on behavioral and mental health facilities. The purpose of the study was four-fold: to develop a tool for the evaluation of mental and behavioral health facilities, to identify design features that are believed to positively impact staff, patients and families in psychiatric environments, to evaluate the quality and presence of these features in existing facilities and to make recommendations for recommended research.

  • Malawi Material Waiting Homes: Measuring the Impact of Holistic Design Approach on Maternal & Infant Health

  • AuthorsCo-Investigators: Michael Murphy and Alan Ricks (MASS Design Group)
  • OverviewThe Safe Motherhood Initiative is seeking to redesign a Maternity Waiting Home, where near-term pregnant mothers can stay in close proximity to a health facility. This study seeks to demonstrate how design can encourage facility-based deliveries and support improvements in maternal and neonatal health outcomes. By measuring the impacts of the redesigned MWH, Malawi hopes to generate evidence that can support the Malawian government as they scale this care model across the country.