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Wondering which classic books about healthcare design should be on your bookshelf?

I've got some recommendations. But first, what is a classic book?

From what I can gather, a classic book is one that is considered exemplary or noteworthy. One that has lasting value or a timeless quality about it.

Classic fiction are books like "Pride and Prejudice," "To Kill a Mockingbird," and "The Great Gatsby."

In healthcare design, these are books written or edited by experts in the field that explore innovative ideas and define best practices. Over the years, I've acquired quite a few of them.

So here are my choices for the 16 of the best classic books about healthcare design (listed in alphabetical order by title):

1. A Visual Reference for Evidence Based Design by Jain Malkin (166 pages, The Center for Health Design, 2008). Jain takes us on a journey to explain research-informed healthcare interior architecture with more than 300 annotated project photos and commentary. She knows this stuff better than anybody. Find out more or buy this book>>>

2. Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life by Stephen R. Kellert, Judith Heerwagen, Martin Mador (432 pages, John Wiley & Sons, 2013). While not specifically about healthcare, I think this is the "bible" of biophilic design, which is so important to health and well-being in any setting. Find out more or buy this book>>>

3. Design Details for Health, 2nd Edition by Cynthia A. Liebrock and Debra Harris (304 pages, John Wiley & Sons, 2011). The revised version of this classic explores how to use design to empower health and wellbeing rather than disable. Covers a range of facility types -- including long-term care and independent living. Find out more or buy this book>>>

4. Design Innovations for Aging and Alzheimer's by Elizabeth Brawley (400 pages, John Wiley & Sons, 2005). While some of the thinking on designing for dementia has evolved, Betsy's book offers many timeless insights into creating supportive environments for the elderly and people who are cognitively impaired.  Find out more or buy this book>>

5. Evidence-Based Healthcare Design by Rosalyn Cama (288 pages, John Wiley & Sons, 2009). Long-time Center for Health Design (CHD) board chair consolidates the EBD process into four steps instead of the eight defined by CHD. This book, which was written about the same time as the first EDAC study guide, is valuable because it comes from a designer's perspective.  Find out more or buy this book >>>

6. Hospitable Design for Healthcare and Senior Living Communities by Albert Bush-Brown and Dianne Davis (263 pages, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1992). Unlike it's title might imply, this book isn't about designing healthcare facilities to look and feel like hotels. Its central thesis is that patients/residents' physical, mental, and emotional well-being are improved by hospitable design and services -- a pioneering concept at the time. Find out more or buy this book>>>

7. Hospital and Healthcare Facility Design, 3rd Edition by Richard L. Miller, Earl S. Swensson, and J. Todd Robinson. An updated version of a book that has introduced three generations of students and professionals to state-of-the-art healthcare facility planning and design. Find out more or buy this book>>>

8. Housing Design for an Increasingly Older Population: Redefining Assisted Living for the Mentally and Physically Frail by Victor Regnier (336 pages, John Wiley & Sons, 2018). This is an updated version of Regnier's widely acclaimed earlier book, Design for Assisted Living (1994). Based on numerous conversations with other experts, as well as examinations of high quality settings from Northern Europe and the U.S. Find out more or buy this book>>>

9. Innovations in Healthcare Design: Selected Presentations from the First Five Symposia on Healthcare Design edited by Sara O. Marberry (306 pages, John Wiley & Sons, 1995). My first healthcare design book is a collection of edited presentations by the early pioneers and rising stars that gave birth to the healthcare design industry in the late 1980s. Find out more or buy this book>>>

10. Medical and Dental Space Planning: A Comprehensive Guide to Design, Equipment, and Clinical Proceedings, 4th Edition by Jain Malkin (663 pages, John Wiley & Sons, 2014). This most recent edition of Jain's definitive reference on medical and dental office design explores transformative changes in technology, healthcare policy, and patient care management. Includes more than 600 illustrations and drawings. Find out more or buy this book>>>

11. Modern Clinic Design: Strategies for an Era of Change edited by Christine Guzzo Vickery, Gary Nyberg, and Douglas Whiteaker (327 pages, John Wiley & Sons, 2015). While a more recent book, this one became an instant classic for me because its contributors offer a collective industry-wide knowledge with an eye toward the political, social, and economic changes affecting how healthcare is delivered. Find out more or buy this book>>>

12. Nurses as Leaders in Healthcare Design: A Resource for Nurses and Interprofessional Partners, edited by Jaynelle Stichler and Kathy Okland (234 pages, Herman Miller Healthcare and the Nursing Institute for Healthcare Design, 2015). Written by nurses involved across the globe, this one-of-a-kind book offers a unique and essential perspective on the planning and design of healthcare facilities. Email Herman Miller to request a copy if any are still available.

13. Rigor and Research in Healthcare Design by D. Kirk Hamilton (235 pages, Herman Miller Healthcare, 2013). No one better to explain the evidence-based design process than Kirk. This book is a compendium of the best of his evidence-based design writings from the HERD Journal and Healthcare Design magazine. Email Herman Miller to request a copy if any are still available.

14. Sustainable Healthcare Architecture, 2nd Edition by Robin Guenther and Gail Vittori (480 pages, John Wiley & Sons, 2013).  Another instant classic and the most authoritative book on sustainable healthcare facility design. Second edition is even better than the first, with 55 new project case studies. Find out more or buy this book>>>

15. Therapeutic Landscapes by Clare Cooper Marcus and Naomi A. Sachs (326 pages, John Wiley, 2014). The definitive book on designing restorative outdoor spaces by two renowned thought leaders in the field. Also includes a chapter on the history of outdoor hospital spaces. Find out more or buy this book>>>

16. Work of Mercy: A Picture History of Hospitals by Grace Goldin (The Boston Mills Press, 1994). There are several books on the history of hospitals, but I like this one. It's a simple pictorial and narrative history of hospitals, beginning in the 16th century through the late 20th century. Find out more or buy this book>>>

Which books would you add to this list? Post in the comments below or contact me.

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Leave a comment

Cathy Dolan Schweitzer

4 years ago

Thank you for putting this list together you always provide us with good advice. You may want to review Health Well Done: A People Centered Management Approach to Building Healthcare Environments.


4 years ago

Nice list, Sara.
I am delighted to see the Grace Goldin book - I was just thinking about it.
I would add -
All 10 of the journals from the first ten Symposiums,
All if the original research reports The Center for Health Design published.
Design that Cares

Sara Marberry

4 years ago

Thanks Wayne. I'm not sure all of these fall into the "book" category, but they are classic resources.

Shijoth vijayan

4 years ago

From where we can find these books

Sara Marberry

4 years ago

Most are available on Amazon. Click on the links in the article.

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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