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Consortium on Urban Design and Public Health Releases First Annual Report

January 20, 2016

A Drexel research team examines the role of the physical and built environment in public health.
A Drexel research team examines the role of the physical and built environment in public health.

Can intentional design help people live healthier lives? The first annual progress report of the American Institute of Architects (AIA)’s Design and Health Research Consortium contributes to a growing body of research showing that the physical and built environment can play a crucial – and often overlooked – role in public health.

The report from the AIA, along with the the Architects Foundation and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), covers consortium activities across a spectrum of research issues where design contributes to public health.

Last year, a team from Drexel University was selected as one of 11 inaugural members of the consortium, which helps translate research on design’s influence on public health into architectural practice for policymakers, design and public health professionals and the general public. The team of faculty from the Dornsife School of Public Health and Westphal College of Media Arts & Design bring together research and community engagement efforts that converge within several community-based projects in West Philadelphia. 

Drexel’s contributions this year include publishing peer-reviewed articles describing the connection between community environments and health; presenting at national conferences and meetings on processes for human centered design and community projects; teaching courses on the intersection of design and health; and organizing community meetings and symposiums that brought together health practitioners, urban design professionals and researchers

In addition to Drexel’s efforts, the report includes research from the effects of indoor temperatures on sleep deprivation and depression (University of Florida) to a “best design” competition for a mobile isolation treatment unit to combat the Ebola epidemic (Texas A&M University’s Center for Health Systems and Design).

“This AIA report documents the real-world impacts and applications that design can have on public health,” said Sherry-Lea Bloodworth Botop, executive director of the Architects Foundation. “It will serve as the basis for our consortium fund-raising efforts on this issue in 2016 and is required reading for anyone preparing for the single biggest trend affecting the built environment.”

The major 2015 accomplishments of the eleven charter members of the AIA Design and Health Research Consortium include:

• Garnering almost $12 million for research connecting design and health;

• Developing and offering of more than 90 university courses on design and health, preparing the next generation of leaders for the design-health movement;

• Holding 140 public events, including at AIA chapters nationwide, connecting almost 2,000 design professionals and community members with design solutions to foster public health.

“Consortium members are influencing both architectural education and practice,” said Michael Monti, executive director of ACSA. “Their work is leading to exciting connections between design and health that are fostering true change in both fields.”

The AIA has organized its design and health initiative around six evidence-based approaches that architects can use at the building and urban scale. These six approaches—environmental quality, natural systems, physical activity, safety, sensory environments and social connectedness—recognize that the physical environment creates health opportunities and facilitates positive health behaviors. For more information, visit

About the Architects Foundation

The Architects Foundation preserves, honors and advances excellence in design for the benefit of the public. As a nonprofit philanthropic extension of the American Institute of Architects, the Architects Foundation is the preeminent voice and advocate for architecture and design in America. The Architects Foundation is dedicated to the belief that good design is good for all and plays an essential role in transforming lives and building a better world.

About The American Institute of Architects

Founded in 1857, members of the American Institute of Architects consistently work to create more valuable, healthy, secure and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods and communities. Through nearly 300 state and local chapters, the AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards. The AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders, and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit


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