The Dyson Centre
In Brief

Royal United Hospital Bath


Construction value: 

October 2011

The Dyson Centre for Neonatal Care has been transferred from a small cramped facility into a pioneering new home. The project has resulted in a dramatically different and improved environment in which the Royal United Hospital can care for the 500 premature and sick babies that arrive each year.

A pioneering holistic and therapeutic approach towards the new building has created a new low carbon unit, allowing the staff to practise developmental care for premature and sick babies.

The building consists of a single storey new-build extension, and the refurbishment of the space occupied by the previous NICU facility. The new-build element accommodates the clinical, support and reception functions as a discreet and contemporary intervention. The refurbished element comprises staff and parents’ facilities. The two elements are linked by a new ‘umbilicus’ which also provides an access point for emergency vehicles.

The grouping of the care rooms forms a route around the staff base which is the heart of the unit. From parents’ feedback, progress along this ‘route’ is very important psychologically; it is important that the ever-decreasing intensity of care is legible to parents.

The unit has been designed to provide the spaces with a visual connection with the outside and the changing day, and seasons, and to minimize where possible, reliance on artificial light. At lower level, a window seat has been incorporated into each room providing an external focus for moments of quiet reflection. The unit has been designed to incorporate a range of mechanical and electrical services that can be maintained without access to the clinical areas: A central, high level walkthrough duct distributes services throughout the unit and will allow for unobtrusive replacement of equipment in the future.

The scheme aspired to high sustainability standards. Construction U-values and air permeability are up to 50% better than the minimum standards, reducing thermal loads and energy consumption. Overall regulated annual CO2 emissions of about 118kgCO2/sqm, are 28% better that the ‘Target Emission Rating’.

Read 'Challenging Healthcare Design' by architect Hester Brough.


The NICU is constructed from large cross-laminated timber panels which form the structure for the building in a material with low embodied energy.

The panellised timber solution provided a quick, clean and quiet construction, essential in an acute healthcare environment.

The opportunity to expose the timber internally was maximised. This creates a sense of calm, which, when combined with the quality of daylight and sunlight, helps lower stress levels and lift the spirits for the parents and the staff.

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Selected Awards

2012 RIBA Award: National & South West Client of the Year

2012 Building Better Healthcare Award: Best Inpatient Facility Design

2012 Design & Health International Academy Award: Int Sustainable Design & Int Health Project (Under 40,000 sqm): Highly Commended

2012 RICS Award (National): Highly Commended

2012 SW Built Environment Awards: Project of the Year & Innovation

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"In the babies we studied we found that they had 20% more sleep here in the new unit - and while they're resting they're growing, and recovering."
Dr Bernie Marden Consultant Neonatologist and Paediatrician The Dyson Centre
"The design of the building is leading to better fed and better rested babies"
Dr Bernie Marden Consultant Neonatologist and Paediatrician The Dyson Centre
"in the new unit 90% of the babies go home breastfeeding, compared with 64% in the old unit..."
Dr Bernie Marden Consultant Neonatologist and Paediatrician The Dyson Centre
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