Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Architecture and Community Design

Major Professor

Daniel Powers, M.Arch.


Healthcare, Newborn, Medicine, Sunlight, Healing


In healthcare environments, elements like nature, daylight and sound have been found to significantly influence the healing process of patients, by enhancing the quality of their recovery, shortening their hospital stay and consequently reducing hospital costs. For instance, it has been shown that exposure to nature triggers positive responses in people, daylight affects human psychology, and different sounds have varying behavioral effects on different groups of people. But, while these effects have been carefully studied in adult patients, leading to clear design standards, less is known about their impact on premature infants. Interestingly, the care that many newborns receive in Neonatal Intensive Care Units provides countless benefits, but there are also many aspects of it that can cause stress to babies, staff and families.

Exposure to continuous light, high levels of noise, separation from their mothers, minimal physical contact and painful procedures are all stressful factors that can have tremendous effects on a baby's recovery. So, while highly specialized treatments can greatly improve a newborn's medical condition, physical surroundings are rarely regarded as influential in his or her care. This thesis exploration focuses on the design of a Women's and Infant's Medical Center prototype where the emphasis will be to promote well-being and healthy development through the physical environment. Attention will be given to the controversial effects of natural light on babies and its benefit will be determined through analysis of collected evidence. Equally, noise sources and methods to control it will be explored in order to minimize stress and discomfort in newborns.

Finally, the importance of access to the natural environment will be studied, and even though this would normally not be directly associated with a baby's healing process, it could be an essential factor in the well-being of mothers and caregivers, which in turn will benefit the baby. Through evidence, research, analysis and a prototype design various strategies will be developed to demonstrate how the proposed elements (access to nature, daylight, and noise control) could successfully be integrated into a NICU setting. The resulting environment should promote faster recovery and healthier development of babies, both directly and via their caregivers (parents and medical staff).