The Center for Health Design launched the Pediatric Environment Network (PEN) in April 2022 by bringing together 13 children’s hospitals, 14 architecture firms with a specialty in pediatric environments, seven manufacturers with essential pediatric-specific products and an international children’s foundation to discuss how to best advance pediatric environments.

The diversity of the group was intentional to provide more varied understanding and perspectives. Outside experts are included in deep-dive virtual meetings and PEN’s annual in-person gathering. After more than two years of collaborating and inspiring each other, members have learned many things that will influence the future of children’s health.

Two PEN members recently shared how lessons learned from the network influenced the new pediatric campus being planned in Dallas:

  • “As Children’s Health embarked on design and planning for our recently announced new pediatric campus in Dallas, we looked across the nation for examples of innovative design with the patient and the family at the forefront,” says Jen Barrera, executive vice president for strategic initiatives at Children’s Health in Dallas. “At our 2023 annual PEN meeting, we were so impressed by [another organization’s] universal rooms for hematology and oncology services that it served as a core tenet of design for our own patient rooms. The rooms enhance operational efficiency and offer significant benefits for immunocompromised children and their families.”
  • The collegial relationships developed at the PEN meetings are immensely valuable. During our annual meeting at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, we were able to hear about their mock-up strategy and the value that it brought to the design of their new patient tower,” says Rachel Knox, ACHA, EDAC, LSSGB, LEED AP, AIA, studio practice leader for health and partner at HKS. “After an additional visit with them, we incorporated that strategy and many other learnings into our design process for the new pediatric campus in Dallas.”

The PEN members want to share their knowledge to help advance pediatric health environments throughout the world. Plans are being discussed about contributing an interactive pediatric patient room and involvement in research. Members will continue to serve on PEN panels at conferences. While membership is invitational, inquiries to The Center are welcome.

To learn more, readers can contact The Center at

Natalie Miovski Hagerty, AIA, LEED AP, EDAC, SSGBC, is assistant vice president, facilities planning, design and integration, at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and Judy Smith, MHA, is the facilitator for The Center for Health Design’s Pediatric Environment Network and founder/principal at Smith Hager Bajo. They can be reached at and