Putting Evidence-Based Design to the Test

There’s a lot of focus on innovation these days; from artificial intelligence and age reversal, to self-driving cars and Wi-Fi refrigerators, there are countless visions for what the future could look like. But with all that talk, the real question is: What separates great ideas from functional solutions? At Hord Coplan Macht, we believe one of the most valuable pathways to innovation is through real-time feedback and evidence-based design. That’s how we take projects that extra 5-10% of the way for true start-to-finish innovation.

So how does real-time feedback help take a project that extra distance? Here’s one example:

After a new build or renovation, schools tend to consider the furniture as an after-thought. With most of the focus and energy being spent on the physical space itself, it’s not uncommon for educators to order the same furniture they’ve used in previous years. That’s why classrooms can often look the same from decade to decade: rows of desks, plastic-molded chairs, and rectangular tables.

But as students’ learning styles change and adapt, so should the furniture they use. That’s why North Dorchester High School (NDHS) in Dorchester County, MD commissioned HCM to create active learning solutions for their classrooms ahead of their move to a replacement school, which was designed by HCM and is currently under construction.

With the help of HCM, representatives from NDHS toured high schools in the area with furniture layouts and products varying from traditional to modern. They also visited HCM’s Baltimore office, where they tested some of the flexible furniture options in our Learning Lab, extra office space we converted into a test space/gallery where various manufacturers can showcase their flexible furniture and products.






One of the teachers who visited our offices was Jessica Baker, a ninth grade English teacher at NDHS. She was enthralled by the opportunities she saw in the flexible furniture options we presented to her. It only made sense to work with her to launch a pilot program in her classroom, where she could test out different types of non-traditional furniture with her students – giving us valuable real-time data and insights. Jessica has been a great ambassador for the flexible furniture program, keeping track of student feedback, as well as her own, in the form of a blog.

Before starting the pilot program, HCM worked with VS Furniture to select a variety of potential furniture options for Jessica’s classroom. This included items such as:



It doesn’t stop there however. After the pilot year concludes, HCM will work with NDHS to decide on the best way forward given the evidence sourced in the test classroom. We’ll work with furniture vendors to find the best fits for the spaces based on needs and budget. This is where all the research, planning, and post-it notes pays off. This collaboration between architects, interior designers, vendors, clients, and more – this has allowed us to take an integrated approach that lets us connect the dots and help clients like North Dorchester High School earn an A+ with their students.





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