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Architecture In Healthcare

Ben Refuerzo and Stephen Verderber

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Healthcare Projects
Past Progressives
Ben Refuerzo And Stephen Verderber Showed How Research Can Lead To Better Public Health Facilities—Without Compromising Architectural Quality.

The P/A Research Awards program recognized some of the best research under way in the profession. Two architects—Ben Refuerzo and Stephen Verderber—won three such awards, including this 1992 citation for redefining the place of architecture in community and public healthcare. Their four-volume report, commissioned by public health agencies in Louisiana and distributed statewide, assessed existing community health facilities in the region, conducted 25 post-occupancy evaluations, proposed carefully researched design guidelines, and developed a prototype design based on 143 evidence-based architectural and site planning concepts.

The jury lauded the report’s integration of aggregated research and design solutions. “There is an almost inherent breakdown in the continuity between the research question and the architectural question,” juror John Archea said. “This project is exemplary because it moves beyond that.” Some jurors, however, found the guidelines either too prescriptive or too vague, revealing the tension that still exists in the discipline between designers and researchers. Nevertheless, the report has had a “best-practices impact … over the past 20 years,” Verderber says, which is documented in his 2005 book Compassion in Architecture: Evidence-based Design for Health in Louisiana.

Subsequent post-occupancy reviews of the facilities built using this research show “the collective architectural quality … markedly improving” from what preceded them. More importantly, the new facilities have resulted in greater usage and in significantly higher satisfaction among patients and health personnel. As Archea presciently observed, this work is “operating at roughly equivalent levels of sophistication in both its research and architectural sensibilities, and that’s something that’s rare.”
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