The Dyson Centre for Neonatal Care (NICU) at the Royal United Hospital in Bath cares for more than 500 premature and sick newborn babies each year; it has been designed as a template to show how good, sustainable healthcare design can be achieved, setting a benchmark for good practice, and creating a therapeutic environment to benefit parents, children and staff.
The Dyson Centre for Neonatal Care (NICU) at the Royal United Hospital in Bath cares for more than 500 premature and sick newborn babies each year; it has been designed as a template to show how good, sustainable healthcare design can be achieved, setting a benchmark for good practice, and creating a therapeutic environment to benefit parents, children and staff. It also challenges conventional healthcare construction by using a cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure with exposed internal surfaces.
For the architect Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, this new building was their first venture into the healthcare sector. With no preconceived ideas, the team explored assumptions about what would be appropriate and possible. The original unit, which it replaced, was cramped, inefficient, dark and lacked privacy, exacerbating the stress of already anxious parents and users. Both architect and client considered it essential to create a new environmentally sustainable building with a quiet environment to help reduce the stress of seeing one’s newborn sick baby in a highly technical setting and to promote holistic healing. The original unit, now refurbished, provides facilities for staff and parents and is connected to the new building by a link which acts as the main entrance, gives access for emergency vehicles and creates a private sheltered courtyard a ‘break-out’ space for parents and colleagues. The plan of the new single storey building is organised in a horseshoe arrangement around a centralised staff base where parents can clearly see their babies progress and journey from critical care through to going home; psychologically this was very important for both the parents and the staff. The staff bases/clinical areas at the centre are linked by a continuous corridor to a series of care/treatment rooms at the perimeter; these treatment rooms are arranged in a clockwise direction to reflect the intensity of care – beginning with intensive care, followed by high dependency, then special care, on to the parents’ rooms and finally, recovery. The use of natural light was especially important to both patients and staff, allowing them to perceive the changing conditions of day and night.
Consulting examination rooms and treatment rooms are daylit with clerestory windows along the external walls and generous windows reaching to low level to give an external focus for moments of quiet reflection. Central clinical areas and corridors are lit with continuous overhead rooflights. Daylight is carefully controlled to ensure that babies gain an awareness of day and night as they develop.