Written by Shermineh Afsary, Ph.D., EDAC, Architectural Design Researcher and Planner, Hutton

Architecture has always been a mixture of art and science, considering aesthetics, function, structural and technical integrity. In recent years, when data is increasingly driving decisions, we are utilizing Evidence-Based Design (EBD) and using credible research to guide design decisions.

Understanding Evidence-Based Design (EBD)

EBD in architecture is the process of basing design decisions on credible research to achieve optimal outcomes. This approach goes beyond mere aesthetics, considering the effect of built environments on people’s behaviors, health and wellbeing.

The core principle of EBD is simple: Design should be informed by the best available evidence and credible research to achieve our client’s desired results. This could include research into environmental psychology, post-occupancy evaluations, or even user experience and surveys.

In this process, research is integrated into organizational readiness, pre-design, design, construction and post-occupancy of the building, as seen in the image below. The goals and objectives of the research are tracked in all these steps for quality control purposes. The integration of the research into these steps requires the collaboration between research experts, design professionals and the construction team, as well as our client and their stakeholders. The process is not linear; it is integrated into the life cycle of the project and moves back and forth between steps.


Evidence based design lifecycle (Center for Health Design, 2023, Through https://www.healthdesign.org/certification-outreach/edac/about-ebd)

Benefits of EBD in Architecture

  • Improved User Experience: By making decisions based on research, our architects can ensure that spaces are designed based on our clients’ goals and their users’ needs, resulting in built environments that promote wellbeing and functionality.
  • Efficiency and Sustainability: Data-driven designs often lead to more efficient use of resources, yielding buildings that are more sustainable and giving clients peace-of-mind about how their dollars were utilized throughout the project.
  • Future-Ready Design: Using EBD can help our architects anticipate changes and needs, leading to more flexible and adaptable spaces. And because Hutton is an integrated design-build firm, our construction team members benefit from this knowledge as well.
  • Health & Wellness: EBD can result in designs that prioritize wellbeing and healing, not only in healthcare settings, but also in all buildings.

Using EBD at Hutton

Hutton utilizes EBD by integrating credible research into various steps of the design process. This looks like collaborating with clients to initiate comprehensive pre-design research before diving into the design phase. This helps us understand user behaviors, needs and preferences. By doing so, we ensure that our projects are not just visually appealing but also meet the needs and requirements of the users.

In one mixed-use multi-family development project, we applied EBD to optimize parking ratio, configuration and size. To do this, we conducted extensive pre-design research, including surveys, sociological and urban studies – all to understand the behaviors and preferences of the building’s users. We also used EBD to research daylight in rooms and other spaces, and about health and wellness in design, to recommend solutions for unit layout.

While parking and bedroom layout are effective use-cases for EBD in multi-family developments, clients from all capabilities benefit from giving precedence to EBD. From healthcare facilities to commercial office spaces, this method allows our team to not only optimize valuable project resources, but the research gives clients peace-of-mind that recommendations are based on research, evidence and best practices in design.

For the best project outcomes, decision-makers should engage with architects like Hutton who prioritize Evidence-Based Design. This methodology ensures enhancements in user experiences, operational efficiency, cost-effectiveness, sustainability, and designs that stand the test of time, making your architectural investment a blend of meticulous planning and future-oriented vision.


Center for Health Design (2023), About EBD, Through https://www.healthdesign.org/certification-outreach/edac/about-ebd

Center for Health Design (2017), An Introduction to Evidence-Based Design, Evidence Based Accreditation and Certification (EDAC) Study Guide 1