A rendering of the UACDC’s Fayetteville 2030: Food City. All images courtesy of the UACDC.
A rendering of the UACDC’s Fayetteville 2030: Food City. All images courtesy of the UACDC.

Design & Health Research Consortium

The AIA Foundation, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture has established the AIA Design & Health Research Consortium to advance university-led research in the area of design and health.

The 17 members of the Consortium are comprised of experts from  both design and public health disciplines; the team must be lead by an ACSA or ASPPH member school or program. 

Members of the AIA Design and Health Research Consortium are expected to improve the usefulness and quality of research linking design to health outcomes through deliberative partnership with other entities, collectively equipped to:

  • Strengthen the design and health knowledge base by documenting and disseminating peer-reviewed research.
  • Develop evidence-based tools for practicing professionals informed by current research.
  • Translate the outcomes of research for policymakers and the general public.

Architects Foundation, AIA, and ACSA will work with members to identify and develop opportunities for funding, publishing, and translating research that connects design decisions with health outcomes. Coordinated efforts across the Consortium benefit members, their design and health professionals, and the public as a whole.

The Design and Health Research Consortium 2015 Progress Report is available here: Download PDF

 Cohort Members

  • Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. The team will focus its research and translation activities on physical activity and identifying the ways in which architecture and urban design create built environments that support physically active lifestyles. While physical activity prevents cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and reduces blood pressure less than 50% of Americans meet current recommendations for activity.  The team will use GPS and GIS technologies to study how neighborhood built environments can support physical activity among residents of New York City and will develop methods to conduct similar research in Rio das Pedras, a favela community in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.   The choice of research sites is motivated by two key UN projections: (1) by 2025, 379 million people (10% of the world’s population) are expected to live in megacities such as New York City and (2) by 2030, 2 billion people will live in “informal communities” such as Rio das Pedras.
  • Drexel University.The Urban Design & Health team from Drexel’s School of Public Health and Westphal College of Media Arts & Design will focus on a depressed West Philadelphia neighborhood known as Mantua, where more than a third (34%) of residents live in poverty. The team’s research will evaluate and measure the impact of urban design on the health and wellbeing of community residents, including both nature-centered design projects (such as community gardens, an urban greenway and a new sustainable playground to be built at the McMichael Elementary school) and “non-natural ecologies” such as housing improvements.

  • NewSchool of Architecture & Design, Innovative Design Science, and University of California, San Diego. The NewSchool of Architecture & Design’s translational design research collaboration provides directly relevant experience in bringing together unconventional, interdisciplinary partnerships to innovate and create environments that encourage healthy behaviors and improved public health outcomes.  The collaboration includes Innovative Design Science specializing in neuro-architectural issues and research-based design spanning the broad range of challenges identified by the AIA Design and Health initiative including the sensory and cognitive influences of design on circadian rhythms, visual attention, acoustics, cognitive function, medical errors, and educational outcomes. A partnership with Active Living Research, the Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems at Calit2/Qi, and the School of Medicine at the University of California San Diego uses smart wearable wireless sensors to track how individuals react when exposed to changing conditions within the built environment in order to promote physical activity and healthy behaviors.
  • Center for Health Systems & Design, College of Architecture, Texas A&M University. One of the world’s leading healthcare design research organizations, CHSD brings together experts from multiple disciplines to focus on sustainable, evidence-based design in the field of healthcare environments. Their research examines how the built and natural environments affect patients, influence healing, pain relief, quality health care, physical activity, social interaction, work flow and other behaviors. Ongoing research and international collaborations include: hospital, ICU and sensory environments studies, healthy communities initiatives, LEAN construction and integrated project delivery in healthcare, and investigating the relationship of landscapes to long-term care settings.
  • Texas Tech University College of Architecture.The TTU System is collaborating on projects to service 108 counties in West Texas. Its research focus will be new uses for tele-health technologies, cost and benefit modeling for agriculture and health, community planning and design influence on obesity and chronic diseases, cost benefit metrics regarding high rates of occupational and personal injury in rural and urban populations, loud noise disparity in rural populations; and technology and social connectedness.
  • School of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Kansas.The school will tackle a variety of research subjects by engaging faculty from other departments and schools, including engineering, design, urban planning, sociology, public health, and medicine. The focus is on combining traditional approaches with cutting-edge technologies and applications to solve complex health and wellness challenges. Topics include design for infection control, air quality and thermal comfort; the influence of micro- and macro-scale environments on healthy behaviors; improving the efficiency of outdated facilities in rural healthcare systems, and using efficient approaches transportation and infrastructure to create a sustainable environment.
  • University of Arizona Institute on Place and Wellbeing. The Institute focuses on the use of physiological measures of the stress response, using wearable sensors such as heart monitors. In development with the Air Force Research Labs and a Consortium of private sector industry organizations are methods to measure stress and immune biomarkers in human sweat. These cutting edge technologies are being applied to measure human health and wellbeing responses in several building types and urban settings, including hospital design and office buildings, to determine the impact of sustainable design on physical health and wellbeing.
  • University of Florida. The UF team’s research will go beyond today’s conventional health and safety standards to develop and test performance measures of residential building systems, materials, and spatial/design configurations, and of community infrastructure (e.g. streets/sidewalks, density) as to their impact on health of older adults.  The focus will be on environmental quality, safety, active living, and social connectedness – all key health concerns of an aging population.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, School of Architecture. Stressful conditions of modern living threaten the health and well-being of millions of Americans and billions of people around the world. Through the study of physiological responses, the team from the Illinois School of Architecture will examine ways that residential environments can be designed to address conditions exacerbating stress and to enhance conditions that restore us following stressful experiences. The team intends to use the findings from their work to develop evidence-based design tools that will assist in the creation of healthier homes and neighborhoods.
  • University of Miami School of Architecture and Miller School of Medicine Department of Public Health Sciences. The University’s research focus will center on Miami-Dade County’s “Neighborhood Park Project,” a three-year project to provide better environmental, population and individual health outcomes through increased physical activity and social interaction. Two-thirds of the county’s 2.6 million residents are overweight or obese. Nearly 30% of the county’s adults regularly report no physical activity in the past 30 days. Ten percent of high-school students are obese and only 12% attend daily physical-education classes, compared to 44% in the rest of Florida. Their program seeks to use walkable, green, and accessible design of community-centered parks, within a 5-10 minute walk from home for those residents at greatest risk for physical inactivity, obesity, and social isolation, to turn around these public health statistics and move closer to community well-being.
  • University of Oregon. The school will research the “built environment microbiome.” Although the microbial communities that inhabit buildings and urban areas are poorly understood and rarely recognized by architects and planners, the design of the built environment has been shown to influence which microorganisms are present and thriving and which are not. Building on a research framework established by the University of Oregon’s Biology and Built Environment Center, the school, in a new partnership with the non-profit Oregon Research Institute, will explore, quantify, and respond to the linkages among building and urban design, microbial communities, and human well-being. It will also research how parks and other green infrastructure may cleanse pollutants from the air and perhaps contribute a beneficial diversity of microbes to our urban air-shed.

  • Morgan State University. The university, a Historically Black Institution (HBI) in Baltimore, is committed to the education of minorities. The University’s Community, Design, Health (CDH) Forum was initiated in August. This forum encourages interdisciplinary research on the relationships among community, design, and health. Its goal is to engage students from multiple departments–architecture, planning, landscape, sociology, public health, and psychology, and nursing–with academic and professional conversations about health and design. Using Baltimore’s urban infrastructure as the background for understanding public health concerns, CDH aspires to develop undergraduate and graduate students who can identify, design, and develop healthy environments.
  • University of Memphis School of Public Health. Memphis and its Delta region, with some of the highest rates of poverty in the nation, leads the country in many public health challenges, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic diseases. Yet walking safely is a challenge that restricts many individuals from enjoying their neighborhood gaining access to goods and services by foot. Memphis has one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the country, with more than 300,000 pedestrian injuries and more than 1,000 pedestrian fatalities. The school’s Memphis Walks’ initiative focuses on improving quality of life through improved walkability, promoting physical activity, improved air quality, and social cohesion via walking. Its goals are to further document the importance of walkability to public health and wellbeing as well as make the case for why walking more should be a priority in urban neighborhoods.
  • School of Architecture, University of Minnesota. While the connections between health and the physical environment are increasingly better understood, little exists to guide and coordinate the activities of architects responsible for designing these environments. The school’s team of health-focused, human-centered systems designers, architects, and public health experts plan to engage in “in situ” research and collaborate with a low income urban community in Minneapolis to develop a systematic Design + Health Equity scorecard to 1) aid in identifying key community specific environmental assets and barriers to health equity needs and 2) offer tangible tools that guide the design/redesign at the building- block and community level.
  • School of Architecture, University of Virginia. According to the American Institute of Stress, nearly one in five of American adults – or around 40 million Americans- suffers from stress-related anxiety disorders. The World Health Organization in 2011 found that 31 percent of Americans are likely to suffer from an anxiety problem at some point during their lifetimes – the worst rate in the world. Work- related stress and depression is the largest occupational health problem in the USA, and the key cause of absenteeism. This project establishes a stress environment consortium to build evidence on how urban green infrastructure (UGI) – including natural typologies like green walls/roofs can support stress mitigation and, in turn, promote health resilience and protection from chronic disease. Its goal is to develop a new national capacity to measure and understand the link between UGI and stress mitigation, including gender, race and income disparities.
  • University of Washington, Department of Architecture. The University of Washington team focuses on health in the built environment in their established research initiatives at building and community levels. These initiatives include using Seattle’s Bullitt Center, which was designed to meet the Living Building Challenge, as a laboratory to test the intersection between health and the built environment on multiple scales, research on design and technology fostering energy efficiency and healthy human environments, and interdisciplinary teaching initiatives in health and the built environment. Through their multidisciplinary research and strong connection with practicing Architecture, Engineering, and Construction professionals, the team is well poised to make significant contributions to four of the six AIA Research Consortium’s approaches to health.
  • Washington University in St. Louis, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and Brown School of Social Work. The Sam Fox School’s Center for Health Research & Design uses design research methods to develop new knowledge that leads to innovative solutions for improving the experience of health and delivery of care from the community to the hospital and back. The Brown School’s Prevention Research Center explores behaviors that place Americans at risk for chronic diseases such as obesity, cancer, and stroke among vulnerable populations. The schools’ multidisciplinary research teams have collaborated on projects that address how environmental factors impact health conditions and in turn the sustainability of our communities, often intersecting with natural systems that also support the overall connectedness of the residents.