Assistant Professor
2425 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Ithaca, New York
Design + Environmental Analysis


Rana Sagha Zadeh, M.Arch., Ph.D., Associate AIA, LEED AP, EDAC, is a tenure-track assistant professor and the co-director of the Health Design Innovations Lab (HDIL, affiliated with the Institute for Healthy Futures) in the Department of Design & Environmental Analysis at Cornell University.

Dr. Zadeh’s interests include healthcare design, evidence-based design, and the translation and application of scientifically tested research and design innovation into real-life practice, products, and policies to meet real-world problems. HDIL is currently working on several projects about improving patients' quality of life, managing symptoms, optimizing built work environments, and assessing the life-cycle costs and the business case for design interventions that target improving human health and performance.

One focus is the development of low-cost, high-impact, non-pharmacological system solutions to improve quality of life and manage patient symptoms, thereby minimizing the need for medication and medical procedures for patients with advanced and chronic illnesses, particularly in end-of-life, geriatric, and acute-care settings. HDIL is committed to working with national and local partners to advance innovations in palliative care. In collaboration with medical, nursing, and engineering experts, HDIL is developing evidence-based educational programs for caregivers, as well as novel technological interventions for patients to measure and manage symptoms and improve their safety and quality of life.

Other ongoing focuses are economic evaluation of improvements in care environments and novel design and engineering solutions to optimize medical workplaces and improve alertness, productivity, efficiency, and patient satisfaction.

Currently partnered with faculty in Engineering, Fiber Science and Apparel Design, and Physics, HDIL is participating in user assessment, product development, and commercialization and testing of new products to reduce building energy use and improve occupant productivity and safety using novel low-cost and high-accuracy new technology.

Dr. Zadeh’s team received the Innovation Incubator Award and the Novel Technology Award from the Clinical and Translational Science Center and Weill Cornell Medical College. She also received the Center for Health Design’s 2012-13 New Investigator Award for her high-quality research in the field of evidence-based healthcare facility design and the 2013 Architectural Research Centers Consortium's King Medal for innovation, integrity, and scholarship in environmental design research. Read about the Health Design Innovations Lab: Find our recent guidebook on design for end-of-life care settings:

I specialize in evidence-based and human-centered design. I conduct applied research on optimizing healing environments for patients and working environments for healthcare staff, with the following three focus areas: the development of non-pharmacological interventions for patient symptom management and quality of life, the optimization of healthcare work environments using computer simulation and user input from clinicians, and the documentation of the business case for human-centered and evidence-based healthcare design.

Currently, my team is working to develop novel, non-pharmacological methods to manage symptoms and improve quality of life, particularly for patients in acute care, elderly care, and end-of-life care, by utilizing and combining available capacities in design, engineering, and medicine. We achieve this by incorporating methods such as gathering user perspectives about unmet needs, collecting new evidence, developing innovative concepts, and translating the latest scientific research into products, environments, and practices. Some outcomes for patients have included reduced length of stay, improved quality of life, decreased pain, and enhanced sleep. For staff, outcomes have included reductions in fatigue, errors, and work burden.

Peer-reviewed Publications

1. Capezuti, E., Sagha Zadeh, R., Krieger, A., Basara, A., Jiang, H. Z., & Pain, K. (In review). A systematic review of non-pharmacological interventions to improve sleep among adults in nursing homes.

2. Sagha Zadeh, R., Capezuti, E., Eshelman, P., Woody, N., Tiffany, J., & Krieger, A. (In review). Non-pharmacological solutions to sleep and circadian rhythm disruption: Voiced bedside experiences of hospice and end-of-life staff caregivers in New York State. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

3. Eshelman, P., Sagha Zadeh, R., Setla, J., & Krieger, A. (In press). Designing end-of-life care setting to enhance quality of life: Informing the conversation among designers, users, and stake holders. Facility Design Guidelines Institute.

4. Capezuti, E., Sagha Zadeh, R., Woody, N., Basara, A., & Krieger, A. (In press). An integrative review of non-pharmacological interventions to improve sleep among adults with advanced serious illness. Journal of Palliative Medicine.

5. Sagha Zadeh, R., Eshelman, P., Setla, J., Krieger, A., Hon, E., & Kennedy, L. (2017). Environmental design for end-of-life care: An integrative review on improving quality of life and managing symptoms for patients in institutional settings. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. doi:10.1016/.2017.09.011

6. Sagha Zadeh, R., Eshelman, P., Setla, J., & Sadatsafavi, H. (2017). Strategies to improve quality of life at the end of life: interdisciplinary team perspectives. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. [Epub ahead of print] doi: 10.1177/1049909117711997

7. Sagha Zadeh, R., Shepley, M., Owora, A., Waggener, L., & Donnenbaum, M. (2017). Perceptions of healthcare workers regarding effective environmental strategies to improve their health and performance. Journal of Environmental and Occupational Medicine.

8. Sagha Zadeh, R., Shepley M. Sadatsafavi, H., & Krieger, A. (2017). Improve safety by design in healthcare work environments. HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal.

9. Neo J. R., & Sagha-Zadeh, R. (2017). The influence of spatial configuration on the frequency of use of hand sanitizing stations in health care environments. American Journal of Infection Control, 45(6), 615-619.

10. Neo, J. R., Sagha Zadeh, R., Vielemeyer, O., & Franklin, E. (2016). An integrated review of evidence-based practices to increase hand hygiene compliance in healthcare facilities. American Journal of Infection Control, 44(6), 691-704. doi:10.1016/j.ajic.2015.11.034

11. Sagha Zadeh, R., Xian, X., & Shepley, M. M. (2016) Sustainable healthcare design: Existing challenges and future directions for an environmental, economic, and social approach to sustainability. Facilities, 34(5/6), doi:10.1108/F-09-2013-0067

12. Sagha Zadeh, R., Sadatsafavi, H., & Xue, R. (2015). Evidence-based and value-based decision making about healthcare design: an economic evaluation of the safety and quality outcomes. HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 8(4), 58-76. doi: 10.1177/1937586715586393

13. Sadatsafavi, H., Niknejad, B., Sagha Zadeh, R., & Sadatsafavi, M. (2016). Do cost savings from reductions in nosocomial infections justify additional costs of single-bed rooms in intensive care units? A simulation case study. Journal of Critical Care, 31(1), 194-200. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2015.10.010

14. Sagha Zadeh, R., Shepley, M. M., Williams, G., & Chung, S. S. E. (2014). The impact of windows and daylight on acute-care nurs¬es’ physiological, psychological, and behavioral health. HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 7(4), 36-62.

15. Sagha Zadeh, R., Shepley, M.M., Waggener, L., & Kennedy, L. (2013). Workplace design: design characteristics of healthcare environments: the nurses’ perspective. World Health Design, 80-85.

16. Sagha Zadeh, R., Shepley, M.M., & Waggener, L. T. (2012). Rethinking efficiency in acute care nursing units: Analyzing nursing unit layouts for improved spatial flow. HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 6(1), 39-65.

17. Nanda, U., Eisen, S., Sagha Zadeh, R., & Owen, D. (2010). Effect of visual art on patient anxiety and agitation in a mental health facility and implications for the business case. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 18(5), 386-393. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2850.2010.01682.x

18. Shepley, M., Gerbi, R., Watson, A., Imgrund, S., & Sagha Zadeh, R. (2011). The impact of daylight and views on patients and staff. Health Environments Design & Research, 5(2), 46-60.


Industry Reports

1. Sagha Zadeh, R. (2017, May). Evidence-based palliative care design. Submitted to Cayuga Medical Center.

2. Eshelman, P., Sagha Zadeh, R., Setla, J., & Krieger, A. (2015, January 20). Designing end-of-life care setting to enhance quality of life: Informing the conversation among designers, users, and stake holders. Submitted to Hospice of Central New York, Hospicare of Tompkins County, Francis House End of Life Home, and Cayuga Medical Center’s Palliative Care Program.

3. Shepley, M., & Sagha Zadeh, R. (2015, May 15,). Designing the future neurological Intensive care unit at the New York Presbyterian Hospital: a partnership between Human Ecology and Weill Cornell Medical College. Submitted to New York Presbyterian Hospital.

4. Sagha Zadeh, R., & Gilmore, R. (2013, May 15,). Emergency department of the future, a guideline addressing health, safety, and efficiency. Submitted to HOAG Healthcare and Jacobs Engineering.

5. Sagha Zadeh, R., & Gilmore, R. (2014, May 15). Transforming patient experience for Brigham & Women’s Hospital. Submitted to CAMA Design and Brigham & Women’s Hospital.

6. Sagha Zadeh, R. (2015, January 5). Translational guide for workplace design. Submitted to Herman Miller Healthcare and HKS Architects.

Zadeh is a an elected member of the Center for Health Design’s Research Coalition, and currently serves as a grant reviewer for the New Investigator Award and has served on the CHD’s Behavioral Health, and volunteer on CHD’s the Agency for Healthcare Research Quality’s project to create a risk assessment tool for patient safety. Zadeh is a founding member of the Nursing Institute for Healthcare Design and associate member of American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and a member and former president of a student chapter of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America.

Zadeh’s professional activities go beyond research and volunteerism and has involved service learning projects for community members including Hospicare of Tompkins County, End –of-Life Care Residence (2013- current), New York Presbyterian Hospital (Spring 2015,16,18), Brigham & Women’s Hospital and CAMA Inc. (spring 2014), Cayuga Medical Center (Fall 2013,Spring 2014,Spring 2017) and Hoag Healthcare (Spring 2013).

"My teaching style has three main emphases—communication across disciplines, engagement in real-life projects, and the concentration on combining innovation and evidence-based approaches to design.

Communication and collaboration across disciplines is an essential skill when working as a professional in industry, academia, or government. Therefore, my classes emphasize the development and improvement of multidisciplinary dialogue among those involved in design, engineering, medicine, and business. The three classes that I teach have included students from the fields of design, architecture, interior design, urban and regional planning, business administration, real estate and finance, engineering, information science, policy analysis and management, public health, global health, landscape architecture, facility management, ergonomics, environmental psychology, medicine, premedical studies, and biology and society.

Based on my own experiences as a student, design practitioner, and research consultant, I strongly believe in simulating real-life practices to maximize the educational benefits and motivation for learning fundamentals for our emerging professionals. The use of real-life projects presented by clients and community members creates a learning laboratory with a two-way information exchange between the students and the community partner. These current and critical projects help extend personal learning into community engagement and social justice. With real-life projects comes unpredictability. My students and I learn to embrace these experiences and build interpersonal and professional competencies. We improve our awareness about the sophistication and sensitivity of research in human environments, especially in healthcare, and describe ways to engage stakeholders in fostering positive change.

My teaching focuses on the concepts of design creativity, human-centered design, and evidence-based design. With the help of my students, I develop pilot models, tools, and methods to combine creativity and science and to document the lessons learned for future practical applications.

Finally, in my classes, together, we practice respect of others, tolerance of diversity, teamwork, public speaking, team leadership, personal and group reflection, and networking. Over the past two years, I have employed various rubrics and teaching aids for each of these goals."

DEA 6550: Innovations in Healthcare Research & Design

  • A community-based research and design class that partners with providers and practitioners
  • Evidence-based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC)
  • Clients include Hoag Healthcare, CAMA Inc., Brigham & Women’s Hospital, New York Presbyterian Hospital, and Cayuga Medical Center
  • Projects completed include system redesigns related to palliative care, emergency department, patient experience on medical campuses, neurological ICU, Pediatric ICU
  • Students from the Departments of Health, Biology & Society; Business Administration; Real Estate and Finance; Global Health; Public Health; Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering; Health Administration; Facility Management; Environmental Psychology, Ergonomics; and Interior Design

DEA4500: Policy Meets Design: High-Impact Facilities of the 21st Century

  • Partnering with leaders at Kaiser Permanente and FreemanWhite
  • Concentration on policy and its impact on future facilities
  • 2017 field project: “Hospice and Palliative Care during End of Life,” partnering with Hospicare of Tompkins County and Cayuga Medical Center, Palliative Department
  • Students from the Departments of Health Administration, Public Administration, Information Technology, Premedical, Architecture, Urban & Regional Planning, and Design & Environmental Analysis 

DEA 3550: Planning and Managing the Workplace: Evidence-Based Design and the Organizational Ecology

  • Past Sponsors HKS Architects, CADRE, and Herman Miller Healthcare
  • Principles of design for knowledge workers to improve health and performance and the overall organization’s business outcomes
  • Development of a translational guide on workplace design for practitioners
2012 Ph.D. concentration in Health Systems and Design, College of Architecture, Texas A&M University 2005 M.Arch., School of Art & Architecture, Azad University of Tehran
I am the co-founder and co-director of the Health Design Innovations Lab (HDIL), a connecting hub for academics, practitioners, and community partners committed to develop cutting-edge solutions for real-world challenges in healthcare environments. HDIL is affiliated with the Cornell’s Institute for Healthy Futures. I also serve on the Diversity committee for the College of Human Ecology, representing the DEA Department.

AHRQ. (2013, November 10). Cornell University’s Faculty Uses AHRQ’s Transforming Hospitals DVD, Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality: Impact Case Studies, Patient Safety.

Boscia, T. (2013, Aug 28). Students help alumnus with hospital redesign. Link Magazine: The Magazine for Human Ecology Alumni.

Budryk, Z. (2015, November 3). Single patient rooms: Reduce hospital-acquired infections and care costs. FierceHealthcare.

Christensen, J.(2014, Aug 14) Another reason to want the corner office: It's good for your health, CNN Health.

Cutler, S. (2013, Nov12). New course blends health policy and facility design. CornellChronicle.

Ferenc, J. (2015, December 2). Builders, designers impact patient safety in health care facilities. Health Facilities Management.

Friedlander, B. (2015, September 14). In health care, good design can be good business. Futurity.

Friedlander, B. (2015, November 3). Costly private rooms save hospitals lots of money. Futurity.

Impact Design Hub. (2015, September 30). Cornell study shows good design means better health outcomes.

Lian, J. (2013, Apr 11). A healing space. OHS Canada.

Morse, S. (2015, November 5). Costly private hospital rooms save systems as quality links with cost, Cornell study says. Healthcare Finance News.

Zaino, J. (2014, June 13). Evidence-based hospital design: Is it worth the big investment? Healthcare Finance News.