When children were asked what they might like to see in a new expansion of the Nemours Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Delaware, FKP’s Diane Osan said, “They came up with some very creative things.”

Those ideas included a roller coaster and a swimming pool, for starters. But most of all, they asked for solutions that would make the building itself less scary and would better accommodate their families over what might be a long stay.

Osan was joined by Kristin Ledet of FKP and Art Brinkworth, construction manager for Nemours Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children, in the session “A Child’s Piggybank: How Would Kids Spend Their Money?” on Monday of the 2014 Healthcare Design Conference in San Diego.

The 557,000-square-foot, $272.8 million project, which opened earlier this year, includes 144 single patient rooms and was guided by the concept of creating a home away from home.

The design process included a deep collaboration with key stakeholders, including clinicians, families, and children, with the children in particular engaged at a very deep level—and often showing that what they’d spend their money on was a bit different than what adults would choose. And at the end of the day, unless clinical needs dictated otherwise, their opinions shaped the building that exists today.

One of the most powerful of lessons learned came from a patient who’d been an inpatient in pediatric facilities across the country and kept a journal of ideas that he would implement if able to design a children’s hospital one day—a veritable pot of gold for the designers on the project.

And when asked about cool interactive elements like color-changing lights in the patient room, he told Ledet that that would be great for a day or two, but after that it would grow stale and he’d be unlikely to use them much.

So then when asked what he’d spend his money on instead, he said more space for his mom who’d been crammed into the existing hospital with no space to store her belongings while she lived in the hospital with her son. Among solutions to that particular issue were cubbies of storage for overnight essentials in the bathroom and a pullout couch positioned so that a nearby worktable could easily be pulled up for family dinners together right in the room.

Another concept shaped by the feedback of children and their families was the nurses’ station, originally designed as a traditional decentralized space built in place with millwork with partitions between caregivers and the corridor. However, users requested more transparency, with the result being a larger team station supported by furniture solutions rather than millwork and an open concept that allowed easy interaction between staff and family. It also shaved $165,000 off the budget by using modular components rather than constructing the space.

Feedback also inspired elements like a separate TV for family, a refrigerator in every room, and showers instead of bathtubs. Even the building's colorful glass exterior is a reflection of feedback they heard.

And when artwork for the building was selected by a committee of clinicians and administrators and then presented to the children’s panel, that, too, had to be reconsidered. “It’s not at all what they wanted,” Ledet said. Requests for art instead focused on items that they could touch and feel or that moved. “That’s what engaged them and got them excited about the spaces.”