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Mass General Brigham

Health Design Lab

architecture drawing

What we do

The Mass General Brigham Health Design Lab unites clinical, architectural, and design professionals with a mission to advance the collaboration between health care and design across four domains: research; education; clinical practice and innovation; and bioethics and policy. 

Our common purpose is to improve care delivery, patient outcomes, and patient and provider satisfaction through design.   

Our mission

The goal of the Lab is to improve care delivery through the clinician-designer model, where health care practitioners and designers work together to find solutions to problems with the built environment of hospitals and care settings.

Research: Investigate the health effects of specific architectural interventions. For example, answering key questions about the built environment’s impact on health outcomes; development of research-based post-occupancy evaluation tools to assist in quantifying building effects; cost-benefit analysis of design interventions, etc.

Education: Establish academic curricula to advance the development of a new hybrid field of medicine and architecture. Emerging professionals in both industries seek a convergence of career models which can inspire new modes of practice.

Clinical Practice & Innovation: Facilitate design-related innovations in clinical practice with the goal of improving new and existing care delivery spaces. 

Bioethics & Policy: Assess the ethical aspects of design and health–and, in turn, examine policies at the institutional level. Even small design ideas or changes can have far-reaching implications. This is no better exemplified than in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Lab will strive to consider these aspects in its research, educational, and innovation priorities.  The Lab will advocate for ethically beneficial design interventions by escalating them to the appropriate institutional or political levels of leadership. 

How design impacts health

Evidence-based design research is a growing body of empirical data demonstrating that architecture impacts care delivery as well as health outcomes.

The built environment—in this case hospitals and clinics where health care is delivered—is an important determinant of health. The built environment should be considered alongside other parameters of care, like physical and social determinants of health.

This lab creates a convergence of the health care and design disciplines in order to promote innovative and novel solutions to improve clinical spaces and subsequently support equitable, safe, and efficient care delivery.

The COVID-19 global pandemic brought many of these issues to the forefront. The pandemic illuminated infection prevention/control inequities among building types. It stressed existing building designs to their limits as patient volume surged. It created a crisis of burnout and retention among frontline health care workers.

Research supports a role for design in health care, yet there remain many unanswered questions. The effects of the built and digital environment on patient outcomes, care delivery cost and efficiency, and health equity remain undiscovered. The Lab’s primary work will be to augment this body of evidence and bring it from “bench-to-bedside” through clinical innovations. 


Our members are participating as leaders, experts, and consultants on research happening in health care and industry.

Skylight study

Daylight has a proven effect on the physical and mental wellbeing of people. In North America it is well known that people spend 90% of life indoors where exposure to natural daylight and intensity of light can be greatly compromised.

The Health Design Lab is collaborating with Signify, Inc. to evaluate the effects of virtual skylights and light panels on patients and staff wellness in intensive care units (ICU) at Massachusetts General Hospital. These products emit natural spectrum light and optimize natural light for patients. Planning has begun for the installation of virtual skylights and light panels in multiple ICU rooms where there are currently no windows.

The installation will also accompany a dynamic lighting schedule (DLS) that follows the natural variation of light temperature and intensity, mimicking early morning, daylight, and evening light to further enhance circadian syncing. We plan to study not only the effects on staff wellness, but the impact on patient health and delirium rates specifically, which is a significant comorbidity that adversely affects over 1 in 4 critically ill patients in ICU’s.

Jacobs, a global solutions firm who provides a diverse range of technical and professional services, is partnering with the Health Design Lab on this study to provide specialist architecture and engineering services as part of their commitment to advance the field of research-based design with strategic partners.

ICU design guidelines

Diana Anderson, MD, MArch, is a current co-chair and Benjamin Christian Renne, MD, is a panel member of a 4-year taskforce assembled by the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) to update the 2012 Guidelines for Intensive Care Unit Design, published in Critical Care Medicine and a 2013 SCCM Section Award Winner for Published Guidelines. The task force is a multidisciplinary group of architects, clinicians, engineers, and others involved in ICU design.

The SCCM's clinical practice guidelines are evidence-based statements that include recommendations intended to optimize patient care. The design guidelines are the first of their kind, informed by a rigorous systematic review of the evidence in published literature and assessment of the benefits and harms of different options. These guidelines will have global reach.

Dr. Anderson has published numerous peer-reviewed papers and textbooks chapters on the topic of ICU for both clinical and architectural audiences. She is also a past Chair of the SCCM ICU Design Committee.

Who we are

The Health Design Lab includes an interdisciplinary team of clinicians, designers, and researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD), Harvard Medical School (HMS), HMS Lab for Bioethics, and other Boston area collaborators.

Lab leadership

Advisory members

John Messervy is an architect and the corporate director of design and construction for Mass General Brigham. Messervy is responsible for their multi-year facility planning program and their large-scale construction projects. He manages Mass General Brigham’s energy conservation and procurement activities including their initiative to be net zero for electricity by 2025. Messervy co-chairs their Resiliency Master Plan Initiative with Paul Biddinger, MD, chief preparedness and continuity officer for Mass General Brigham.

Dr. Allen is an associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of Harvard’s Healthy Building program, where he and his team created the “9 Foundations of Healthy Building.” Working with John Macomber of the Harvard Business School, Allen coauthored Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity.

Dr. Duhaime, MD is a pediatric neurosurgeon in Pediatric Neurosurgery at Mass General for Children and is the Nicholas T. Zervas Distinguished Professor of Neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School. Her neuroscience research investigates mechanisms, pathophysiology, imaging, and treatment of injury in the immature brain, using translational and clinical approaches to study injuries occurring in infants and young children, including those seen most commonly in child abuse. The work also investigates plasticity, recovery, and return of brain function in children and adolescents during maturation.

Dr. Duhaime also has a longstanding interest in the relationship between brain and behavior, and environmental issues. She is a faculty associate of the Harvard University Center for the Environment. Beginning with a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute in 2016, she has explored the neurobiology of reward circuitry and plasticity and its relevance to pro-environmental behavior, and also worked with a diverse team to design a prototype advanced “green” biophilic pediatric hospital. Her book on this work, "Minding the Climate", was published in 2022 (Harvard University Press). She now serves as associate director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for the Environment and Health, supervising the research pillar, and as associate editor-in-chief of the Journal of Climate Change and Health.

Eric Höweler is an architect, designer, and educator. He is currently associate professor in architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he teaches design studios and directs the Master of Architecture Thesis Program. Höweler’s design work and research focuses on building technology integration and material systems.

Höweler is co-founding principal and partner of Höweler + Yoon Architecture LLP (HYA), a research-driven studio of 25 designers. HYA has a reputation for work that is technologically and formally innovative, and deeply informed by human experience and a sensitivity to tectonics. Current projects include the Institute of Democracy at the University of Virginia, and the Living Village residential college at the Yale Divinity School. Recent projects include the Memorial for Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia, the Collier Memorial, and the MIT Museum.

Dr. Lockley is a neuroscientist and lead investigator in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is also an adjunct professor and VC fellow at the Surrey Sleep Research Centre, University of Surrey in the UK and adjunct professor in the School of Psychological Sciences at Monash University, Australia. He received his B.Sc. (Hons) in biology from the University of Manchester, UK and a PhD in biological sciences from the University of Surrey, UK. With 30 years of research experience, Dr. Lockley is considered an international authority on circadian rhythms and sleep in humans and how light can affect physiology, safety, and health. In addition to studying the mechanisms of human circadian photoreception under controlled laboratory conditions, he has also studied the benefits of multiple real-world lighting interventions including in the ICU, residential care homes, patients’ homes, offices, NASA Mission Control, and even the International Space Station. He has published over 200 research papers, reviews, book chapters and editorials and co-authored ‘Sleep: A Very Short Introduction” from Oxford University Press.

Sarah Markovitz is a principal and the health care design practice leader in NBBJ’s Boston studio. Her 32-year architecture career has been focused on assisting academic medical centers throughout the U.S. in development of high-performing, innovative solutions to their strategic, operational, and design challenges, through diligent research and application of health care design performance measures.

Markovitz’s recent projects include the Ragon and Lunder Buildings at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Hale Building for Transformative Medicine and NYU Langone Health’s Kimmel Building. She has led all levels of hospital personnel through strategic planning, visioning, goal-setting, and detailed planning for highly technical facilities.

She is a leader in infection prevention design, evidence-based design and Lean methodology. She has served as a writer and editor for the Facility Guidelines Institute’s Emergency Conditions design guide. Recently she participated in a CDC-grant project to establish safe environment design guidelines for patients with high consequence infectious diseases.

Markovitz adds value to her projects through her diligent research and application of health care design performance measures. She embraces the concerns of staff, advocates for patients and families, and designs and collaborates with broad user groups to develop, test, and implement to reach the most effective solutions. Her advocacy of clinical performance and patient experience is balanced by her concerns for sustainability, flexibility, and appropriate facility cost. 

Dr. Samuelson is an associate professor of architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, teaching architectural technology courses. Her teaching and research focus on issues of building design that impact human and environmental health. Dr. Samuelson’s current projects harness advanced building simulation to investigate issues of heat vulnerability, sleep, mold, and indoor environmental quality, along with carbon emissions.

Dr. Samuelson has coauthored more than 40 peer-reviewed scientific papers, including a Best Paper awarded by the journal Energy and Buildings. A recognized expert in architectural technology, she has been interviewed by national media outlets, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, and STAT.

Prior to joining Harvard, she practiced full-time as an architect and sustainable design consultant.