Alamance Regional Medical Center Special Care Neonatal Intensive Care Unit [Burlington, NC]
Project category: Remodel/Renovation (completed January 2006)
Chief administrator: John G. Currin, Jr., President, (336) 538-7000
Firm: Peterson Associates, PA, (704) 364-3400
Design team: C.D. “Buddy” Moose, AIA, President, Principal-in-Charge; Timothy S. Knapp, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, Project Manager; Susan E. Green, Architectural Designer; Michael A. Rogers, PE, Vice-President, Mechanical Engineer; William C. Fox, PE, Associate, Electrical Engineer; Scott L. Cathey, CPD/CIPE, Plumbing Designer
Photography: ©2006 Tim Buchman; © Carolina Photo Group Charlotte
Total building area (sq. ft.): 6,100
Construction cost/sq. ft.: $184
Total construction cost (excluding land): $1,123,612
Alamance Regional Medical Center, continuously developing new facilities for their surrounding communities, wanted to transform their existing nursery area into a Special Care Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to deliver advanced medical care in a comfortable, safe environment for babies and their families.
Although a state-of-the-art NICU greatly increases the survival of premature or low-birth–weight infants, designing an optimal healing environment comes with several unique design challenges. A soothing, comfortable atmosphere helps facilitate the healing process and makes the interaction between parents and babies more enjoyable. In addition, since stressors for premature infants include many elements sometimes unavoidable in a hospital environment—uncontrolled direct light, high ambient-noise levels, and temperature and humidity fluctuations—the designers had to balance the needs of caregivers and their tiny patients.
Multiple light sources are used to illuminate the open floor plan with the appropriate light levels. Each bassinet has recessed lighting for procedures and examinations, indirect lighting for soft general illumination, and natural lighting from exterior windows outfitted with automatic shades and a low-emissivity coating for jaundiced infants. To eliminate or reduce noise levels, visual alarms and pagers were used whenever possible. Despite an open floor plan, each infant-care area can be closed off with a privacy screen to support the needs of the family and promote the critical bonding element between parents and child. Finally, a medically appropriate color palette and soft, curvilinear walls and floor patterns help promote a soothing environment for patients, families, and staff.