Former student Upali Nanda directs research at HKS Inc.

Upali Nanda

Research findings create the ingredients for design, allowing architects to create amazing environments based on the best possible information and insight, said Upali Nanda, HKS Inc.’s new director for research, who earned a Ph.D. in architecture at Texas A&M in 2005.

Nanda will design, spearhead and implement research projects for HKS, which focuses on innovative healthcare design, process and delivery in 28 offices throughout the world.

“She will help us expand our research efforts beyond healthcare to include hospitality, education, sports and workplace studies,” said Tom Harvey, HKS principal and director of the firm’s Center for Advanced Design Research & Evaluation.

As issues surrounding design and project delivery become more complex, there is a push to invest in research across disciplinary boundaries, said Nanda.

“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 firm’s strong internal resources as well as external partnerships with academic institutions and other industry organizations,” she said.

Nanda is an experienced researcher focusing on the impact design can have on human health and perception. She has shared her findings in more than 50 publications, 36 peer-reviewed conference presentations and 16 invited talks, in addition to numerous web-based and in-person presentations. Nanda also regularly presents her findings at national healthcare and design conferences and has been published in architectural and medical peer-reviewed journals.

“Understanding how design can create better environments for all is at the heart of why we conduct research,” she said. “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.”

She earned a Master of Architecture degree from the National University of Singapore and a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi.

Before joining HKS, Nanda worked as a research consultant for The Center for Health Design on research, education and advocacy efforts, including the conversion of research findings into tools for the design community.

She also established and led the research unit at American Art Resources, a team of healthcare art experts with backgrounds in numerous disciplines, which provides patient-centered art to healthcare facilities.

Nanda is co-chairwoman of the Environmental Design and Research Association’s Certificate of Research Excellence committee and a member of the association’s advisory council. Additionally, she serves as a member of the editorial board of Healthcare Environments Research & Design Journal and the Journal of Hospital Administration.

posted October 22, 2013