UW News

December 9, 2015

Design meets health: UW College of Built Environments, School of Public Health chosen for national architect association’s design and research consortium

UW News

The University of Washington College of Built Environments and School of Public Health have been selected as part of a national initiative seeking to translate research on how design impacts public health into architectural practice.

The two UW schools have been selected to join the American Institute of Architects’ multi-school Design & Health Research Consortium. Over a three-year period, the institute and the Architects Foundation will provide support for the new members, promoting local and national partnerships and the sharing of knowledge.

The UW team is led by Andrew Dannenberg, affiliate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences and urban design and planning, and Heather Burpee, research assistant professor of architecture.

Their work focuses on health in the built environment, including using Seattle’s Bullitt Center — the greenest commercial building in the world — as a test laboratory and serving on the steering committee of the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, a sustainability initiative in a densely populated Seattle neighborhood.

“From buildings, to neighborhoods, to entire metro areas, the built environment is a key determinant of human health,” said Howard Frumkin, dean of the School of Public Health. “Here at the UW there are strong links between the School of Public Health and the College of Built Environments, and participating in the consortium will make those links even stronger.”

Frumkin added that the work the UW will conduct with the design consortium also aligns with other important campus efforts, such as Urban@UW, which brings UW researchers, Seattle officials and citizens together to collaborate on issues facing the growing city and region.

“We chose these new members because their research has the best potential for affecting policy across a wide swath of issues at the intersection of the built environment and public health,” said Sherry-Lea Bloodworth Botop, executive director of the Architects Foundation.

The institute’s design and health initiative, which held its first meeting in March, centers on six evidence-based approaches that architects can use at the building and urban scale. These six — environmental quality, natural systems, physical activity, safety, sensory environments social connectedness — recognize that the physical environment creates health opportunities and can facilitate positive health behaviors. Learn more about these approaches online.

Many colleagues expressed their support for the designation in letters to the AIA, including Earth Day founder Denis Hayes, now president of the Bullitt Foundation. “We see great value in dialogue on how the built environment affects health at both the community and the building level,” Hayes wrote, adding that the UW’s inclusion in this research consortium “will provide opportunities for deepened research collaborations between the university and regional professional community at the intersection of design and health.”

Five other new consortium team members also were named, joining the 11 inaugural members. These are Morgan State University, the University of Memphis School of Public Health, the University of Minnesota School of Architecture, the University of Virginia School of Architecture and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts/Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis.

The AIA will also issue an annual report on the activities and accomplishments of the consortium members. The Architects Foundation today issued its first annual report on the activities of the consortium’s original 11 members.

“This is a perfect example of cross-disciplinary collaboration, helping the UW find answers that improve the human condition,” said Frumkin.


For more information about the American Institute of Architects, contact John Schneidawind, director of public affairs and media relations, at 202-626-7457 or johnschneidawind@aia.org. To learn more about the College of Built Environments contact Allie Rock, advancement services officer, at 206-685-3751 or rocka2@uw.edu. For more on the School of Public Health, contact Catherine Shen, director of communications, at 206 616-8061 or cshen489@uw.edu.