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I've always thought that evidence-based design and evidence-informed design are basically the same thing.

But a conversation with a client recently made me think about it.

My client believes that if a product is evidence-based, it implies that research using that product has been done that produced outcomes. An evidence-informed product, on the other hand, means that it was designed or produced using research relevant to the desired outcomes.

Maybe it's like comparing apples to oranges, but I'm not so sure.

The Department of Health and Human Services defines evidence-based practice as "approaches to prevention or treatment that are supported by documented scientific evidence or study." Evidence-informed practice is "using the best available knowledge and research to guide program design and implementation."

These seem too similar to me to be different. Should we apply the same rationale for products and facilities?

I asked the evidence-based design expert what he thought.

"I think they are close enough to be interchangeable, as might be 'research-informed,'" responded D. Kirk Hamilton, FAIA, FACHA, EDAC, Professor of Architecture, Texas A&M University and Co-Editor of the HERD Journal, to my email inquiry. "There are subtle differences which allow for reference to more than research (additional sources of evidence)."

Also, evidence-based design is defined by The Center for Health Design as "the process of basing decisions about the built environment on credible research to achieve the best possible outcomes."

If we apply that definition to products, then I think that products designed using this same process can claim to be evidence-based.

What do you think?

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Photo credit:  Michael Johnson [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Leave a comment

Daniel Heller

8 years ago

Maybe not precisely related to the post, but perhaps The Center for Health Design should consider changing its' definition of Evidence Based Design

“the process of basing decisions about the built environment on credible research to achieve the best possible outcomes.”

“the process of basing decisions about the design and planning of built environment on credible research to achieve the best possible outcomes.”

Joe Sprague

8 years ago

Consider that the difference between evidence based or informed based design might be the rigor?

Barbara Lyons Stewart

8 years ago

I agree with Kirk that the terms "evidence-based, evidence-informed and research-informed" could / should be used interchangeably and should all funnel back to The Center for Health Design and its EDAC program.

In my opinion, creating various levels just weakens the concept. Evidence-informed could be interpreted as "EBD-light." Research-informed could be interpreted by any architect or designer to mean what their personal research and past experience has shown which might have nothing at all to do with quantifiable studies or objective research.

Hopefully, my thinking will change in the future when valid and objective research plays a role in all projects of all types - but that day won't arrive for years outside healthcare design, in my opinion, since so much design in other fields is based upon passing trends and what wins design awards. For now, a strong consistent EBD definition (however the exact wording) best promotes Center for Health Design goals.

What People Are Saying About Evidence-Based Design vs. Evidence-Informed Design - Sara Marberry Sara Marberry

8 years ago

[…] month I wrote a post questioning whether evidence-based design and evidence-informed design are all that […]

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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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