NICU Standard 20: Wall Surfaces

Wall surfaces and surface-applied wall protection shall be durable and easy to clean. Wall protection shall be provided at points where contact with movable equipment is likely to occur. Sound abatement strategies shall be utilized to minimize ambient sound levels.

Color choices shall reflect local culture and climate and be modifiable (through colored light and accessory options), when possible.

Interpretation: As part of a comprehensive strategy to provide a safe and comfortable NICU environment, the ease of cleaning, durability and acoustical properties of wall surfaces should be considered. Strategies for sound abatement may include durable high-performance acoustic wall panels that, based on installation, meet an NRC rating from 0.70 to 0.90. Sound-absorbing acoustic panels can help reduce general noise, clarify speech, and limit reverberation within enclosed areas.

The comprehensive design of the room should consider the flooring, wall finish material and acoustic ceiling, not as separate components, but as a system to achieve the desirable ambient sound level.

Although commonly used, some vinyl wall coverings contain polyvinyl chloride and may contribute to the degradation of indoor air quality, and thus should be avoided; however new technology has produced products that emit lower levels of VOCs and have removed concerning chemicals such as phthalates, heavy metals and formaldehyde.

Selections of products and finishes should seek to eliminate or minimize VOCs and PBTs known to be harmful to human health, such as cadmium, which are often found in paints, wall-coverings, acoustical wall panels and wood paneling systems. The design strategy should focus on the specification of low- or no-VOC paints and coatings and other building finish materials.

Color preference is impacted by culture, climate, and length of stay in a space. Ideally some elements of the built environment are chromatically interchangeable and can be modified by the families and staff.

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