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Towards an architecture of flexibility



Our objective was to explore the case for adoption of flexibility as a core value in the design process for Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs).


Guidelines for NICU design and care of NICU patients and families were examined to identify opportunities for building flexibility into NICU design to optimize function and experience.


Benefits of building flexibility into NICU design included the ability for units to adapt quickly and economically to unpredictable events and demographic changes. Further, by centering family presence as a design necessity, NICUs may better protect families from experiencing additional harm due to separation and interruption of restorative activities. We were able to highlight several examples of current NICUs, which have successfully adopted flexible design and operational models to provide optimal levels of clinical and family-centered care.


By intentionally incorporating flexibility into the design of an NICU, infants, families, and healthcare providers can be provided with an environment that can adapt to shifting needs to optimally support unit function and clinical outcomes.

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This article is published as part of a supplement sponsored by Philips.

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Correspondence to Kate Robson.

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Robson, K., Smith, J. & Dunn, M.S. Towards an architecture of flexibility. J Perinatol 40 (Suppl 1), 22–28 (2020).

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