Design for flexibility in critical care Academic Article uri icon


  • The author, an architect specializing in the design of hospitals, offers observations on the design of contemporary critical care units, with special emphasis on design for flexibility. Unit configuration, trends in observation and privacy, evolution of patient room size, variations of life-support configurations, the accommodation of staff work requirements, monitors, computers, and information systems in the context of flexibility are discussed. Distinctions are made between 'adaptable' flexibility that allows simple change in the current use, and 'convertible' flexibility that allows inexpensive conversion to a new use. Design trends that support flexibility include decentralization of observation and nursing functions, multiple locations for computers and information systems, larger patient rooms, robust utility design, provision for mobile technologies, accommodation of families, and individual environmental controls. Examples of ICU design features are provided. The conclusion is that it is possible and desirable to design for increased flexibility in the critical care environment.

published proceedings

  • New Horizons: Science and Practice of Acute Medicine

author list (cited authors)

  • Hamilton, D. K.

complete list of authors

  • Hamilton, DK

publication date

  • July 1999