Mission:  The mission of the Supportive Environments research team is to examine the role of the physical setting in fostering and maintaining the health, safety and well-being of people with various disabilities—the frail elderly and people with physical, intellectual, and behavioral or mental disabilities—and their caregivers. Studies explore the range of settings in which people live, work, and receive health care, including private residences, group homes, schools, adult daycare facilities and long-term care environments.

The division was started in 1990 and received its first grants from the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Major projects have included studies of the home environments of people with Alzheimer’s disease, of children with physical disabilities, adults with developmental disabilities, students with a wide range of developmental, neurological, behavioral and learning disabilities, as well as the impact of specific interventions, such as nostalgic music and videos, on people with dementia.

Current activities focus on school design to support students with disabilities and various intervention studies where the homes of at-risk populations have been assessed, modified and evaluated in order to promote aging in place as safely and as independently as possible. Numerous studies have also explored ways to maximize the community based residential environments for people with developmental disabilities.


Research Programs

CABSR’s Supportive Environment research is always consumer based. As such, it relies on direct input from people with disabilities as well as their families and service providers. Populations studied to date include people with dementia, the frail elderly, and individuals with disabilities of a physical, sensory, or cognitive nature.   The research is systematic and employs both qualitative and quantitative methods. Studies utilize standard behavioral science techniques, such as observations, interviews, questionnaires, and assessment scales. Representative Projects include:

  • An analysis of how to create a supportive home environment for children with physical disabilities.
  • An investigation of how to create a safe and supportive environment for people with dementia and their caregivers.
  • Six home assessment and modification projects for people with dementia, the frail elderly and adults with developmental disabilities.
  • An analysis of how school design can be used to support students with physical, sensory, intellectual, and developmental disabilities.
  • Studies of the home environments of adults with developmental disabilities, including the aging and older parents caring for an adult child with a developmental disability.
  • An investigation of how formerly institutionalized adults with developmental disabilities are faring in the community and the adequacy of their preparation for transferring to community-based settings.
  • An analysis of how adult daycare centers can be modified to make them more dementia-capable.
  • A study of the impact of nostalgic music and videos-- with an easy-to-access interface-- on people with dementia attending adult day care and on residents of a Alzheimer’s special care unit in a nursing home.
  • Development of a design checklist for creating user friendly environments in special needs housing and provision of technical assistance in plan and site review.
  • Development and presentation of  a training module to health care professionals, paraprofessionals, and social workers on general safety issues in the homes of the elderly and a companion training geared specifically to home environments for people with dementia and their caregivers.
  • Evaluation of the impact of new ramps on people with disabilities who did not formally have them.


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About Us

About Us

The mission of the Center for Building Knowledge (CBK) is to create new knowledge that will help individuals and communities make better-informed decisions concerning the built environment. The Center engages in a comprehensive program of applied research, technical assistance and training focused on the built environment and the institutions, policies, technologies and trends that shape it. A key goal is to generate practical research results that provide tangible benefits to individuals and the communities in which they live and work.

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Center News

Deane Evans Gives Presentation at Dali University in China
Posted On: 05 Jun 2014

"Deane Evans, Executive Director of NJIT’s Center for Building Knowledge, delivered a presentation on architecture and building science research in the U.S. on May 23, 2014 to architectural faculty and students at Dali University in Dali, China.

New Practices New Visions
Posted On: 05 Jun 2014

"On Monday, 01.27.14, the winners of the New Practices New York competition were announced at the Center for Architecture. CBK's Richard Olsen was one of speakers, focusing on dementia.