Nemours Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., has a history of using forward-thinking design. When its original hospital was constructed in 1979, the building was one of the first children’s hospitals to incorporate column-free space and interstitial space for mechanical and utility systems.

When planning began on its latest inpatient pavilion project, Dr. David Bailey, president and CEO at Nemours, told FKP Architects (Houston) he expected the expansion to be every much as innovative as the first building was for its time. “He told us: Give us a building like no other,” says Michael A. Shirley, senior principal at FKP and senior project designer on the project.

Inspired by the gardens on the mansion grounds next to the hospital, the project team wanted to create a bold statement on the building façade. The team came up with an arbor-patterned skin that features multicolored glazing in a diagonal pattern, metal panels, and a solar shade pipe system.

When the team shared the idea with its youth advisory group, which provided input throughout the design process, the kids said it was “jumpin’”—an answer that seemed to align with the owner’s expectations.

When the contractor priced the glass skin design at $230 per square foot, putting it out of the client’s budget, FKP turned to its fabricators and installers to see if they could design a more cost-effective curtain wall solution. They re-engineered the system using prefab units, which cut the cost by roughly 50 percent.

“Although the diagonal pattern and the triangular colors suggest that the glass is modular in that way, they’re really rectangular sections of glass that have been twisted with battens on the outside of the building to create the diamond grid,” Shirley says.

The Showcase jurors applauded the façade solution as well as the children’s influence on the aesthetic of the exterior, giving it an Award of Merit in the 2015 Healthcare Design Showcase.

The $215 million project also stands out for its curved shape, access to daylight, and bright interior. Shirley says in an effort to maximize views from the patient rooms, the design team “stretched the width of the window a bit and as we did that, we created a curved building form.” The almond-shaped floorplates for the two buildings are connected by a five-story atrium with skylights and a southeastern-facing glass wall that serves as a horizontal light-harvesting system.

Slots are carved out between eight-bed pods on the patient floors to bring daylight into nearby staff work zones, as well. Respite areas for families with chairs and a computer station are located near these daylight zones as well as at the building ends.

To provide positive distractions to young patients, families, and staff members, the facility houses an extensive local art program, which is displayed in recessed niches in the hallway and on columns at the nurses’ stations and work areas.

“The design is not formulaic,” Shirley says. “It was driven by the interest of creating appropriate spaces for the comfort of the families and the safety of the staff.”

Anne DiNardo is senior editor of Healthcare Design. She can be reached at
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