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Participation in Healthcare Environment Engineering

About the programme

Participation in Healthcare Environment Engineering (PHEE) is an innovative EPSRC-funded research programme. It brings together healthcare with participatory design and built environment design. The multi-disciplinary team is delivering high-impact research to improve the user experience of healthcare environments, through end user participation in design, engineering and decision making. The research will produce:

  • Better healthcare environment designs
  • New methods for end user participation in engineering.


Engineering produces things (environments, products, processes) to improve our quality of life, yet the people who will ultimately use these things are often not involved in the design (or if they are, this consultation is often tokenistic). Decision making about design needs to directly involve the people who will use these things to capture their subjective opinions, ideas, language, needs and feelings, and then to translate these into a format that is meaningful for designers and engineers. Involving people in engineering and design can have a transformative effect on new products and environments but since this is traditionally not part of formal engineering training, the benefits of participation still have a huge, untapped potential. Furthermore, the notion that engineering can be enhanced through working with other disciplines is only just beginning to have an impact in engineering practice.

Participation is most powerful when it contributes to improving quality of life, and healthcare is the most timely and relevant application. The UK has been left with a legacy of ageing hospital buildings that are unsuitable for the needs of today's increasing (and ageing) population. The design of healthcare environments has been linked to health outcomes so it is increasingly important to optimise the design and user experience of new-build and redeveloped healthcare projects. The challenges faced by healthcare environment design are particularly complex: infection control, safety, security, energy, and environmental issues all impose constraints, and now the advent of patient choice means that the whole hospital must effectively "sell" itself as a carefully packaged experience.

Improving healthcare environment design requires a highly interdisciplinary approach. This research programme draws together engineering with design, architecture, psychology, technology, and healthcare. Working alongside the National Health Service (NHS) and industries provides real life users a chance to participate and opportunities for piloting novel participatory design approaches, with the ultimate aim of driving forward policy change. Crucially, end users (patients, staff, and decision makers) are involved throughout.

The programme of research is executed through 4 core research themes:

  • methods of participation in healthcare environment design, including exploiting ICT as an enabler to participation;
  • best use of representations of future healthcare environments for co-designing with, and presenting concepts to stakeholders;
  • data capture from these representations, and the best use, re-use, storage of and presentation of data to decision makers; and
  • production of an evidence base for this research by measuring the effects of engineering and design interventions on health, wellbeing, and healthcare effectiveness.

Programme Partners

The Participation in Healthcare Environment Engineering programme is supported by NHS Midlands and East, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Partnership Trust, Boex, Arup, Edward Cullinan Architects and Enprecis Inc.

The Research Team

  • Dr Rebecca Cain, Principal Investigator
  • Dr Jamie Mackrill, Senior Research Fellow
  • Dr Elizavet Dimitrokali, Research Fellow
  • Dr Lei Shi, Research Fellow
  • Dr Carolyn Dawson, Research Fellow
  • Kate Ainscough, Experience-Led Innovation Technology Transfer Specialist
  • Sussmek Pandharkame, Research Student
  • Salma Patel, Research Student
  • Mahdad Sadeghi, Research Student
  • Fran Allen, Research Student


  • Dr Paul Marshall, Research Fellow
  • Dr Sarah Payne, Research Fellow
  • Dr Michal Rutkowski, Research Assistant
  • Dr Rachel Potter, Research Student
  • Dr Kieu Anh Vuong, Research Student


This programme is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of their flagship Challenging Engineering scheme. Challenging Engineering challenges the research leaders of the future to be ambitious in the early stages of their careers. The award supports challenging research programmes with a focus on training, to develop a research group over the course of a five year period. The award enables future leaders of engineering research to build a research group that will exploit creative research and develop novel solutions to some of the many problems posed to society.

Experiential Engineering