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UCSD Hillcrest Medical Center – Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

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The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is not only technologically complex, but is also psychologically challenging to design. With new parents planning on celebrating their baby’s arrival at home, it is often a frightening experience they are forced to endure while their child requires medical assistance.

This space, although highly medical in nature, aspires to lift the human spirit. Every newborn is a celebration. The design of this special NICU encourages well being, especially needed in the highly stressful environment of any intensive care unit.

The concept of “a womb with a view” brings the newborn, typically housed in an isolette (or artificial womb), into a homelike nursery in the hospital. This NICU is designed to provide families a place to embrace their new baby while receiving the very special care they require. Dedicated family space within each private patient bay encourages parents to participate in the care of their newborns. Specially designed furniture allows the family to add personal touches to their space, secure items such as breast pumps and purses, connect to the internet, and sleep.

In addition to creating a pleasant home away from home, the private patient bays facilitate sound and light control, creating the best environment possible for each baby. Each of the 9 private patient bays can accommodate one level III infant, or be used by up to three lesser acuity patients allowing for the co-bedding of multiples. This design allows the unit to flex up to 17 patients.

With a focus on creating flexible space that can accommodate all the technologies required for treating critically ill infants, components specified include the use of indirect dimmable lighting systems, access to natural light, high sound absorbent ceiling systems and flooring finishes that are quiet underfoot. Decentralized nursing stations allow for better point of care delivery. VOC free and environmentally sustainable finish materials were specified throughout, an important issue for both infants and staff. Even the medical equipment was specially selected to reduce noise.