The Dyson Centre for Neonatal Care, Bath RUH
The Dyson Centre for Neonatal Care

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 holistic approach has generated a low-carbon building within which the careful use of materials, light, scale, and intimacy of spaces generates a calm and caring atmosphere, allowing the staff to initiate care for their patients and enabling parents to be part of the process.  

Key Information

Sector: Interior Design, Regenerative Design & Sustainability, Workplace, Health & Wellbeing, Healthcare

Client: Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust

Location: Bath

Completion: October 2011

Size: 850 sqm GIA

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, Dyson Centre


The Dyson Centre was FCBStudios' first venture into the Healthcare Sector. It provided an opportunity for an approach to healthcare design and ‘first principles’ thinking that raised questions at early stages; how do patients, staff and the community interface with their environment? How this can benefit their care and wellbeing? and how this can be achieved in the most sustainable way?

With no preconceived ideas of what healthcare architecture should be, we came up with a fresh set of ideas about how we might improve the facility for patients, parents and staff. We were able to challenge assumptions to create a space that promotes health in every sense of the word. 


The building consists of a single-storey new-build extension and the refurbishment of the previous NICU facility. A simple legible plan defines a sequential progression and isolates back-of-house from front-of-house, both in terms of patient care and building maintenance. The new-build element accommodates the clinical, support and reception functions. The refurbished element is home to 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. Progress along this ‘route’ is very important psychologically; it is important that the ever-decreasing intensity of care is legible to parents. With shared bay window seats in each room for moments of quiet reflection, a small colourful playroom space for visiting siblings and parent rooms overlooking the garden, the Dyson Centre is better equipped to meet the needs of families as well as patients.  

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit


The use of timber 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.

The Dyson Centre was the first tertiary UK healthcare building to be constructed in solid laminated timber. The low embodied energy timber was well suited to the predominantly single storey, highly insulated building. It provided a quick, clean, quiet, and panellised form of construction, appropriate for the building’s proximity to the existing delivery suite.

Extensive consultation with the hospital’s infection control team took place to determine that the use of timber in the building would not compromise clinical standards. Once determined it was safe, the opportunity to expose the timber internally was maximised. 

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. The building achieved BREEAM “Excellent” with a reduction of 28% against the Target Emissions Rating and anticipated generation of 118kg CO2/m2/annum. 


The Dyson Centre presented the rare opportunity to quantify the impact of a new building by collecting data sets in the old facility and repeating the exercise on completion of the new building. This research, funded by the Dyson Trust and undertaken by the RUH, has delivered compelling evidence that quality of environment has a direct impact on clinical outcomes.

Findings included:

* Nursing staff spent up to 20% more time in clinical rooms in the new unit.
* Base and average noise levels were lower in the new unit.
* Light levels were more varied in the new unit, ranging from 40-375lux compared to just 125-200lux in the old unit.
* Parents reported feeling less cramped with a greater sense of privacy and less interference from noise and light.
* In the old unit parental anxiety increased over time; in the new unit it reduces.
* Parents are more actively involved in their baby’s care in the new unit with greater physical contact.
* There is a higher incidence of babies discharged having established successful breastfeeding.
* Babies spend 20% more time asleep in the new unit.

Read more about the study in our blog Challenging Healthcare Design.


Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Main Contractor
Vinci Construction UK Ltd
M&E Engineer
Buro Happold
BREEAM Assessor
Buro Happold
CDM Consultant
C M Damrel & Associates
Cost Consultant
Edmond Shipway
Healthcare Architect
SR Architects
Healthcare Researcher
Grant Associates
Project Manager
Provelio Limited
Craig Auckland / fotohaus


RIBA National Award
RIBA Client of the Year Award
Design & Health International Academy Award: International Sustainable Design & International Health Project (Under 40,000 sqm): Highly Commended
Building Better Healthcare Award: Best Inpatient Facility Design
SW Built Environment Awards: Project of the Year & Innovation