Meet Liz Normand, AIA

Liz Normand, AIA, ACHA is an accomplished healthcare architect with a portfolio of projects defined by collaborative processes and trusting relationships with clients and end-users. She has demonstrated leadership in her career and innovation in the industry, advancing the practice of healthcare facility design. Liz is a fierce advocate for sustainable and equitable design in healthcare, pushing her partners to think beyond the specifics of a space and imagine what could be.   

Read more about her path to healthcare architecture and the projects and people who have shaped her career.  

What brought you to architecture?  

I knew early on that I liked art and math, and architecture brought together my favorite aspects of each. In college, I was initially drawn to urban planning and how we can make our streets more walkable. I did my thesis project on a replacement hospital for Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center and had originally approached it from a mixed use, urban development perspective, but after starting my research, I was really inspired by the impact of healthcare. In my second job after college, I actually had the opportunity to work on the real replacement hospital project, which was a great full-circle moment. 

What drew you to healthcare? 

In healthcare, there’s a unique challenge of creating good experiences for and balancing the needs of multiple user groups. We have the potential to impact not only patient outcomes but the lives of everyone who works in healthcare through better design. I’ve learned that patient care begins and ends with the clinicians, so I focus on how to create a better environment for them first. For example, I’ll work hard to achieve a design with the nurses’ break room on a window and close enough to their patients that they’ll feel comfortable taking breaks. And I want to get their input in the design process because they’re the ones who know the needs of the building and all its users better than anyone. 

Are there any projects that stand out for their innovation? 

A few years ago, we completed a study for a community health center and the programming was so creative. The clinicians we worked with were so humble and had great ideas on how we could make care more accessible for their patients. Those ideas included refrigeration on site so they could provide fresh food instead of canned food, larger exam rooms to accommodate whole families, and structuring a portion of the waiting room to function like a daycare so people without childcare could go to their appointments. The study made us creative with how their resources could flex to serve multiple purposes. 

Who or what have been the strongest influences in your career? 

I was lucky to have really great mentors throughout my career who pushed me to work well beyond my experience. When I worked on Kaiser Oakland Hospital, I was working shoulder to shoulder with a senior architect when I only had two years of experience. That was a transformative experience in my career, learning at that level and speed. Becoming ACHA-certified was a similar experience, but at a national scale. It gave me the resources for best practices and educational content that have informed my day-to-day work. 

I also maintained great relationships with the Physician in Chief and Medical Group Administrator at Kaiser Oakland for several years after I did temp work there in college. Talking to them kept me motivated to do the best work I can possibly do.

What do you hope to see in the future for yourself and the industry? 

I hope that my conviction for sustainable and equitable healthcare projects is contagious. Sustainability and equity in healthcare are closely intertwined and need to be treated as such. After all, good healthcare is about people and wellness, so our design needs to reflect that.  

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