August 28, 2013

Upali Nanda, Ph.D. explains, "Research is not just about writing reports, peer-reviewed papers or books. Nor is it about creating prescriptions for design. Rather, the purpose of research is to create the ingredients for design; to discover what works, and why it works, allowing architects to create the most amazing environments based on the best possible information and insight."

Nanda joins HKS, Inc. as director of research. She is responsible for designing, spearheading and implementing research projects domestically and abroad for the firm.

Prior to joining HKS, Nanda worked as a research consultant for The Center for Health Design on research, education and advocacy efforts, including the translation of research into actionable and accessible tools for the design community, and development and training for the EDAC (Evidence-based Design and Accreditation) program.

Nanda also was responsible for establishing and leading the research unit at American Art Resources, the first of its kind in the country. Today, she serves as chair of the advisory council for REDCenter at American Art, co-chair of the EDRA-CORE (Environmental Design and Research Association-Certificate of Research Excellence) committee and a member of the EDAC Advisory Council. Additionally, she serves as a member of the editorial board of Healthcare Environments Research & Design Journal (HERD) and of the Journal of Hospital Administration.

Her doctoral work on a cross-modal approach to sensory design has been published as a book titled “Sensthetics.” Her research has resulted in more than 50 publications, 36 peer-reviewed conference presentations and 16 invited talks, in addition to numerous web-based and in-person presentations for CEUs. Nanda regularly presents her research findings at national healthcare and design conferences and has been published in architectural and medical peer-review journals.

“My research focuses on the impact design can have on human health and perception,” said Nanda. “Understanding how design can create better environments for all is at the heart of why we conduct research. In an era of big data, cloud computing, and social networks, there is also an emerging ethic of being evidence-based, sustainable and people-centered.

“Expectations from the design industry, especially in the health sector, have increased, and designers are more accountable than ever to their stakeholders,” she continued. “As issues around design and project delivery become more complex, there is also a push to use more sophisticated tools, and to invest in translational research across disciplinary boundaries. For me, being rooted in the human experience is key and provides a compass for how we approach this complexity. Given HKS’s commitment to innovation in design, and the strong foundation that is in place for credible and rigorous research, I feel we are in a unique position to explore the nexus between design and research, tapping the strong internal resources as well as external partnerships with academic institutions and other industry organizations.”

“Dr. Nanda’s expertise in research will be available to all HKS design sectors,” said Tom Harvey, FAIA, MPH, FACHA, LEED AP, principal and director of HKS’s Center for Advanced Design Research & Evaluation (CADRE). “She will help us expand our research efforts beyond healthcare to include hospitality, education, sports and workplace studies. Dr. Nanda is expected to be confirmed as the new Executive Director of CADRE, which is the engine that propels HKS’s research efforts.”

HKS established a non-profit organization in 2010, which has received more than $1 million in grants to conduct studies. “Our research has helped inform our clients on many issues, including the efficacy of same-handed rooms; safety security and flexibility determinants in the designed environment; the impact of workplace walking distances; the benefits of daylighting relative to staff stress and focus; inboard versus outboard toilet locations; new materials for improved contamination and infection control; key factors in wayfinding; and clinical perspectives on Facility Guidelines Institute’s Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities,” added Harvey.

Nanda earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Architecture at Texas A&M University, with a certificate in Health Systems and Design. She received a Master of Architecture degree from the National University of Singapore and Bachelor of Architecture degree from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.

HKS is ranked among the top healthcare architectural firms in the world by Modern Healthcare and BD World Architecture. Operating from 28 offices worldwide, HKS focuses on innovative healthcare design, process and delivery. The firm’s award-winning healthcare architecture includes 1,600 unique projects representing 78,000 beds and 166 million square feet. HKS projects have garnered numerous awards and coverage in worldwide publications. The firm’s healthcare specialists are highly respected international speakers.

For more information, contact Trish Martineck at


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