Quiet is a priority in the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children's Center and Sheikh Zayed Tower.

With endless around-the-clock activity in hospitals, the array of noises is a common source of irritation for patients.

Understanding the need for patient comfort, designers of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System's new Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children's Center and Sheikh Zayed Tower, Baltimore, Md., made the quest for quiet a priority.

The new facility is sound-engineered to absorb and mute noise as much as possible, says Michael A. Iati, AIA, LEED AP, senior director, architecture and planning, Johns Hopkins Health Systems Facilities. New technology eliminates overhead paging, advanced building materials absorb sound, and floor plans reduce the foot traffic and noise that occur at busy nursing stations.

Achieving a more peaceful environment starts with a private room for each patient and a nurse-call system that utilizes pagers and other mobile devices for quiet communication between patient and nurse and among staff, he says. Sound-absorbing acoustic panels and ceiling tiles in patient areas and public spaces also reduce noise, says Iati.

Decentralized nurse stations outside each pair of patient rooms keep caregivers closer to patients and reduce noise that can occur when staff converge at one work station. The alcove walls minimize noise by using fabric-wrapped acoustical panels and light fixtures with sound-absorbing baric lenses.

To reduce sounds caused by medical devices, Iati says the hospital purchased equipment with either quieter or adjustable alarm sounds when possible.