Planning, Design, and Construction PhD student Sara Fast is helping to integrate evidence-based design into undergraduate and graduate Architecture studio classes.

“[Evidenced-based design] has often been undervalued or misunderstood both within architecture programs and outside of them,” says Fast.

Fast wants to change that. In January of 2017, Fast began working with Dr. Angela Person and Division of Architecture Director Dr. Stephanie Pilat to incorporate evidence-based design learning outcomes into all architecture studio classes. Now, every architecture studio includes a project centered on evidence-based design. The demands of the projects get more advanced each year as students grow in knowledge and skill.

“Here, we are teaching architecture students how to incorporate data collection and research into the design process. So, they learn how to collect data, how to analyze data, and how use it in the design process. At the same time, they can learn and see the design process as a research process,” says Fast.

Fast sees a lot of similarities between the design process and research. For example, both processes are cyclical. Architects constantly revise their designs and researchers constantly refine their hypotheses as they uncover new data. This similarity makes evidence-based design an effective bridge between the two fields.

Evidence-based design is also important because of the ability of the built environment to create or solve problems in society. Fast believes a skillful and responsible architect should try to solve problems by “making design decisions based on evidence rather than simple intuition.”

The data can come from the architect’s own research or from research conducted by others. The important part is that the architect uses this evidence to create more effective spaces.

In some cases, Fast pulls in her own research housing and transportation for the elderly as an example. Often, however, students must conduct their own research or become familiar with existing research to design a space that addresses some problem in society

“Doctoral student Sara Fast has done an outstanding job of developing design studio lectures, activities and assignments that teach students how to make design decisions based on data and evidence,” says Division of Architecture Director Dr. Stephanie Pilat. “From the first design studio in their freshman year, OU architecture students are learning how to access relevant research findings and how to use the design process as a means of producing new knowledge.”

At both the graduate and undergraduate level, Fast’s work helps produce architects who are equipped to use data evidence to address problems and design for positive impacts.