Associate 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 an associate professor and the co-director and co-founder of the Health Design Innovations Lab (HDIL, affiliated with the Institute for Healthy Futures) in the Department of Design & Environmental Analysis at Cornell University. Zadeh specializes in evidence-based and human-centered healthcare design.

Zadeh’s focus is on the development of novel and affordable non-pharmacological interventions for symptom management and quality of life for patients, and the optimization of healthcare built work environments for formal and family caregivers.

Zadeh’s lab, HDIL, is developing translational research regarding environmental, educational, or technological solutions and guidelines combining available capacities in design, environmental psychology, engineering, business and medicine.

HDIL is committed to working with national and local partners to advance innovations in healthcare and 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, safety 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 Published or in Press

  1. Sagha Zadeh, R., Capezuti, E., Eshelman, P., Woody, N., Tiffany, J., & Krieger, A. (2018).Non-pharmacological solutions to sleep and circadian rhythm disruption: Voiced bedside experiences of hospice and end-of-life staff caregivers. BMC Palliative Care, 17(1), 131. doi: 10.1186/s12904-018-0385-2
  2. Sagha Zadeh, R., & Eshelman, P. (In press). "Palliative design" meets "palliative medicine": A strategic and judicious approach to the design, construction, and operation of healthcare facilities to improve quality of life and minimize suffering for patients, their families, and their caregivers. HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal.
  3. Javani, Z., Madani, R., Hojat, I., & Sagha Zadeh, R. (In Press). The Relationship between Daylight and Happiness for Women in Residential Districts of Isfahan, Iran. Environmental Quality Management.
  4. Capezuti, E., Sagha Zadeh, R., Pain, K., Basara, A., Jiang, N. Z., & Krieger, A. C. (2018). A systematic review of non-pharmacological interventions to improve nighttime sleep among residents of long-term care settings. BMC Geriatrics, 18(1), 143. doi: 10.1186/s12877-018-0794-3
  5. Capezuti, E., Sagha Zadeh, R., Woody, N., Basara, A., & Krieger, A. C. (2018). An integrative review of non-pharmacological interventions to improve sleep among adults with advanced serious illness. Journal of Palliative Medicine , 21(5), 700–717.
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. Sagha Zadeh, R., Shepley, M., Owora, A., Waggener, L., Chung, S., & Donnenbaum, M. (2018).The Importance of Specific Workplace Environment Characteristics for Maximum Health and Performance: Healthcare Workers' Perspective. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2018:60(5):245-252.
  9. Sagha Zadeh, R., Shepley M. Sadatsafavi, H., & Krieger, A. (2017). Improve safety by design in healthcare work environments. HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal.
  10. 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.
  11. Neo, J. R., Sagha Zadeh, R., Vielemeyer, O., & Franklin, E. (2016). Evidence-based practices to increase hand hygiene compliance in health care facilities: An integrated review. American Journal of Infection Control, 44(6), 691-704. doi:10.1016/j.ajic.2015.11.034
  12. 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 
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. Sagha Zadeh, R., Shepley, M. M., Williams, G., & Chung, S. S. E. (2014). The impact of windows and daylight on acute-care nurs­es’ physiological, psychological, and behavioral health. HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 7(4), 36-62.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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 
  19. Shepley, M., Gerbi, R., Watson, A., Imgrund, S., & Sagha Zadeh, R. (2011). The impact of daylight and views on patients and staff. HERD: Health Environments Design & Research, 5(2), 46-60.

Book (online) and Book Chapter

  1. Eshelman, P., Sagha Zadeh, R., Setla, J., & Krieger, A. (2017). Designing End-of-Life Care Setting to Enhance Quality of Life: A Cornell University Report. Washington, DC: Facility Guidelines Institute.  (Online book, Number of downloads: 142 between April and Sept 2018, including 26 States and 17 countries)
  2. Sagha Zadeh, R. (In progress for 2020 publication). Environmental approaches to support aging friendly care. Boltz, M., Capezuti, E., Zwicker, D., & Fulmer, T. (Eds.). Evidence-Based Geriatric Nursing Protocols for Best Practice, 6th ed. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

Industry Reports

  1. Sagha Zadeh, R. (2018, May). Enhancing patient safety in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit through system redesign. Submitted to New York Presbyterian Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
  2. Sagha Zadeh, R. (2017, May). Evidence-based palliative care design. Submitted to Cayuga Medical Center.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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).

Intended to best prepare students for their future careers and meet the existing gaps in expertise and competencies mentioned above, my teaching goal is to create a learning environment that focuses on the following four pedagogical dimensions: multidisciplinary communication, applied in real-world healthcare contexts, concentration on innovative design thinking, and promotion of an inclusive, tolerant, and diverse climate.

1. Multidisciplinary

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. All of my classes enroll a diverse body of students from across campus, with interests in topics such as premedical studies, biology, public health, landscape architecture, architecture, interior design, urban and regional planning, environmental psychology, facility management, policy, business administration, real estate and finance, hospitality, engineering and information science.

2. Applied

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 community partners and creates intrinsic motivation for students. Real-life projects help extend personal learning into community engagement and social justice. Along with real-life projects comes unpredictability. My students and I learn to embrace unexpected 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. Through these experiences, students practice critical thinking about the ambiguity of real-world projects, observe and participate in solving existing issues, gain a sense of the multidimensional aspects of a single project, and discover how one project can affect various stakeholders differently.

3. Innovative

Students practice combining innovation- and evidence-based approaches to design. They tap into their existing skills and knowledge to practice critical thinking, rehearse verbal and visual communication, and apply basic concepts of design thinking, including human-centered and user-experience design. They learn to define project visions and goals, identify system requirements, find evidence-based strategies, and develop context diagrams and concept maps. In hands-on activities and ideation exercises, students build creative confidence and express ideas by creating sketches and building simple models with cardboard and Play-Doh. Finally, they learn to examine the feasibility of the various design ideas and test the agreement between the solutions and the original project goals.

4. Inclusive, Tolerant, and Diverse

In my classes and in work with community partners, we practice respect of others, embracing diversity, empathy, effective teamwork, public speaking, team leadership, personal and group reflection, networking, multidisciplinary collaboration, dealing with ambiguity and conflict, and respectful communication. Over the past two years, I have employed various rubrics and teaching aids for each of these goals and given several lectures on these topics.

DEA 6550: Innovations in Healthcare Research & Design

  • A community-based research and design class that partners with providers and practitioners
  • Training for Evidence-based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC)
  • Past students from multiple backgrounds (e.g., design and planning, business, medicine, policy, and engineering)
  • Completed projects include system redesigns related to palliative care, emergency departments, patient experiences on medical campuses, neurological intensive care units, and pediatric intensive care units
  • Past clients include Hoag Healthcare, CAMA Inc., Brigham & Women's Hospital, New York Presbyterian Hospital, and Cayuga Medical Center

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

  • Partnering with leaders (e.g. Kaiser Permanente)
  • Concentration on the effects of policy and facility design on users' health behaviors
  • Applying concepts of behavioral economics, environmental psychology, and lean quality management to create sustainable, healthy, and economically viable environments
  • 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 include 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
  • Application of ethnographic methods for collecting user information through shadowing, observation, and interviews
  • Critical analysis of components of work and identification of appropriate evidence-based design responses to meet organizational goals
  • Adaptation of workplace design characteristics to the nature of a job (e.g., cognitive vs. physical labor, mobile vs. sedentary work) and to worker characteristics (e.g., gender, education level, and socioeconomic status)

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. I am the Honor's Thesis Coordinator for the Department

Read about the Health Design Innovations Lab:  

 Find our recent guidebook on design for end-of-life care settings: