Evidence Based Design
Taking retail to the next level through science By Lisa A. Thompson, LEED AP BD+C, EDAC
Retail environments professionals have varying levels of conceptual understanding about how or why design features work in a store, but
whether designer, contractor, retailer, or
supplier, we all end up asking the same
• How did we do?
• Are customers successfully being
drawn into the store and then from
one display to the next?
• Can shrinkage be reduced through
• Are the back-of-house area and sales
floor optimized for employees to do
their jobs effectively so that they can
spend more time with customers?
• What sustainability design decisions
positively affected the store’s bottom
• Does inventory in one display sell
better than in another?
If design features can be quantified to
justify construction dollars spent, this is
where the rubber meets the road for many
retailers. It’s the perfect example of triple-
bottom-line sustainability—the above
questions all contribute to making a store
socially, environmentally, and economi-
HOW CAN YOU TELL?
A scientific, quantifiable way to improve
overall performance of a design and, potentially, to improve a store’s bottom line,
exists. We can know how a design feature
or concept made a difference in a store’s
performance through an applied science
called Evidence Based Design (EBD).
EBD is an evolutionary process that uses
research methodologies to make design
decisions to achieve the best possible outcomes. Originally applied to health care
environments, EBD can be used to improve
designs of a building or room that will be
built many times over, such as an inpatient
room, a prototype store, or even a prototype
fixture that will later develop into a major
Approximately 1,300 professionals have
earned Evidence Based Design Accreditation
and Certification (EDAC). EDAC professionals are
qualified to develop and carry out EBD studies.
The credential requires individuals to pass an
exam demonstrating their ability to conduct
valid and applicable research in the built environment. The credential is maintained through
continuing education. Most EDAC professionals
are in the health care industry, but there are
many applications in retail environments.
For more information and for a list of EDAC
professionals, visit www.healthdesign.org/
rollout. EBD can help economize the return
on investment of design and construction
costs over the life of the store.
Architecture is often responsible for
shaping people’s behavior in a given space,
down to the level of how a person shops.
We can control which section of a store
gets the most foot traffic through research-informed design. The results of such a study
will help provide a formula of elements—
such as types of materials, artificial lighting, natural light, space planning, and
fixture design—that in combination tend
to result in increased foot traffic and sales
in a particular area of the store.
the Value of
Evidence Based Design (EBD) is an evolutionary process that uses research methodologies
to improve overall performance of a design and, potentially, to improve a store’s bottom line.
DEVELOPING AN EBD STUDY
Like all other research, EBD starts with a
research plan to identify goals and objectives and develop a hypothesis to test. The
research plan will make or break the study.
EBD studies range from simple surveys to
As an applied social science, the most
effective use of EBD is a multifaceted study
to develop conclusive evidence. Studies
need to be customized to the needs of the
retailer and designed to ensure isolation of