The new focus on architecture is intended to improve health care and wellness efforts.
Health care is a multitrillion-dollar industry in the United States, and it's expected to grow. Thanks to a gradual realization that delivery of health care and promotion of health can be safer and more effective with better design, the fields of health care facilities design and design for wellness were born.
Starting this semester, the Texas Tech University College of Architecture becomes one of only six universities in the country to provide specialized education in these fields with the launch of its newest graduate degree, the Master of Science in Architecture with Specialization in Design and Health.
"Obviously, there is a growing need for health care architects," said Saif Haq, associate dean for academics in the College of Architecture. "The American Institute of Architects has special certifications for health care practitioners; the American College of Healthcare Architects is one such initiative. We want our graduates to have a running start and become leaders in this important field.
"Recently the scope of health care has expanded from restoring impaired health and prevention of diseases to the promotion of health and wellness. This has highlighted the health impacts of large-scale environments and promoted the development of concepts such as active living, walkable environments, healthy communities, personal care and organic gardens."
Because the designed environment is important both for restoring impaired health and promoting wellness, the new master's degree has two concentrations: Health and Wellness Design (HWD) and Healthcare Facilities Design (HFD).
"Research shows certain environmental conditions support faster healing, better pain management, more nurse-patient interactions, fewer falls, enhanced safety and higher satisfaction scores," Haq said. "From an architectural point of view, that requires a nested interdisciplinary approach ranging from a focus on planning and policy issues regarding distribution of resources to new models of health care and wellness delivery and salutogenic design and smart, evidence-based approaches of design and renovation of health care facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, emergency centers and medical office buildings."
In an effort to understand all aspects of this new realization, the College of Architecture is putting together a coalition across Texas Tech and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center – including the Rawls College of Business, the College of Human Sciences, the School of Law, the College of Arts & Sciences, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Nursing – and has embarked on an inclusive effort.
The Texas Tech University System is uniquely situated to house these efforts because it has qualities that are difficult to find elsewhere: the close proximity of a regular university and a medical university, the availability of related disciplines and, most importantly, the collegial mindset of its faculty, administration, alumni and local professionals.
"The relationship between health care and the built environment – or to state the relationship in more basic terms, between our bodies and the spaces our bodies inhabit – is fundamental to the physical and spiritual well-being of any society," said College of Architecture Dean Jim Williamson. "The new master's degree in design and health in the College of Architecture provides an important means for us to further understand this critical dialogue and to do this at a variety of scales, from rooms to cities. That Texas Tech is one of the first institutions to examine this increasingly important relationship is very important – and very exciting."
The master's degree grew out of the college's graduate certificate program in Healthcare Facilities Design, which started in 2010 in collaboration with the Rawls College of Business and the School of Nursing.