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 which can be maintained without access to the clinical areas: A central, high level walk through duct distributes services throughout the unit and will allow for unobtrusive replacement of equipment in the future.
The NICU is constructed from large cross laminated timber panels which form the structure for the building. This timber solution is a quick, clean, quiet and panellised form of construction; essential in an acute healthcare environment.
The timber solution also provided an opportunity to challenge healthcare construction, and look at a more sustainable material with a low embodied energy. 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, will help lower stress levels and lift the spirits for the parents and the staff.
Read 'Challenging Healthcare Design' by architect Hester Brough.