Transforming a 1980s-vintage Inpatient Pediatric Unit into a state-of-the-art Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at the Children's Hospital of Iowa, which is part of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, was the focus of this project. The main goals were to provide a family-centered environment for pediatric patients and to minimize the cost of the project by reusing the existing building walls while providing all new infrastructure and finish systems.

Additional goals were to provide single-patient rooms with private toilet and shower facilities, modernized physician and staff support facilities, facilities to accommodate computer access to the INFORMM Patient Record, and the introduction of color graphics via an exciting, playful quilt theme on the floors and ceilings.

The most significant design challenge was retaining the existing walls enclosing patient rooms, corridors, etc. This required that the original pod-type design of the inpatient unit also be maintained. Also, the programmatic needs of the users were greater than the area could accommodate, so many compromises, such as minimizing storage and support spaces for staff to achieve patient and family spaces, were required.

Another challenge was that in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, code required hard, washable surfaces with minimal joints to prevent bacteria from living or growing on them. This forced the design team to use materials such as wood, paint, and solid surfaces in creative, fun, and colorful ways to achieve the family-centered home décor design requirement.

Nurses’ stations were designed within the nursing pods adjacent to the patient rooms, minimizing walking distances for nursing and maximizing views of the patient rooms. Tube distribution systems were installed in each nurses’ station to permit materials to be quickly received and distributed. Computer workstations were designed to maximize nurse, physician, intern, and family member access.

Most rooms were converted into private rooms with private toilet and shower facilities; this was achieved by combining two smaller rooms into one large room and providing a living and sleeping area within each patient room. An area within the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit was provided where families could shower and bathe separately from patients. Activity rooms were provided for patients and family members within the unit.

All rooms were furnished to accommodate at least one family member overnight. Built-in cabinetwork accommodates children's toys, and marker boards create a fun activities area. The rooms have visual access to TVs with VCRs/DVD players and to computer games. Tack surfaces large enough for children's artwork and get-well cards make the patient room a place where children and family members can enjoy their surroundings for long stays.

Color was used to enhance the visual experience within the inpatient units and patient rooms. The multicolor, quilt-like design theme was used on decorative trim and floor patterns. Ceiling artwork and color, as well as enhanced viewing angles to TVs, give children staying in bed something to observe. Artwork promoting themes of Iowa adorn the halls and patient rooms.

The large windows into existing patient rooms were maintained, and the new locations of patient beds and family sleeping/living areas enhanced views to the exterior. The hard corners of the corridor walls were softened by the use of curving ceiling soffits and bordered floor patterns. Fiberoptics were used within the nurses’ station soffit and in the ceiling graphics at each pod, bringing visual excitement/theming to the area. These elements and the use of specific colors enhanced wayfinding through the units.

Project category: Remodel/Renovation (completed November 2002)

Chief administrator: Brandt Echternacht, Assistant Director for Planning, (319) 356-4008

Firm: Rohrbach Carlson PC, (319) 338-9311

Design team: Steven A. Rohrbach, Principal; Ken Berzinski, Project Architect; Lyn Hayslett, Interior Designer; William Downing, Architect (Rohrbach Carlson PC); Victor Amoroso, PE, President (A & J Associates)

Photography: Dale Van Donselaar, Dale Photographics, Inc.

Total building area (GSF): 14,340

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $203.65

Total cost (excluding land): $2,920,347