Compassion in Construction: NICU Renovation for the Tiniest Patients

Few construction projects have the same emotional impact as the renovation of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) which welcomes and cares for parents and their preterm or critically ill newborns during their precious first days of life. Riley Construction is honored to work with ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital on the development of an enhanced birthing and neonatal intensive care unit scheduled to open in summer 2024.

The 18-month project will feature renovated private NICU rooms and support areas, a pair of dedicated operating rooms, and a rejuvenated LDRP (labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum) unit. The design itself will evoke feelings of calm and joy through warm colors and large, lighted panels. To ensure minimal impact on both staff and the families being served during the construction, Riley will leave as much of an ‘invisible footprint’ as possible as they work on each phase of the project.

“I experienced the NICU firsthand with my twins years ago and understand how crucial it is for families to have a private and quiet birth and care experience,” said Ben Kossow, Riley Construction president. “Our team always spends a lot of time pre-planning to ensure that the construction process is as safe and peaceful as possible.”

Stealth progress in an active hospital environment

Riley navigates complex healthcare construction projects by prioritizing care, collaboration, and compassion.

Every project presents design and building challenges, but especially so in hospitals where facility infrastructure and operations need to continue to run safely throughout the construction process. In a complex project, it’s key to prepare for the next phase while the previous phases are still underway.

In the case of the ProHealth NICU, construction is in progress above a busy oncology wing that also requires extra sensitivity to ensure safety. Riley’s InSTEP planning process and 3D drawing tools, which uses color mapping to visually represent phasing and areas temporarily shut down, is helping the team address potential impact on adjacent spaces. Early planning also ensures that mechanical, electrical, and plumbing work is scheduled properly. Flexibility is key amid potential issues such as shifting subcontractor schedules and weather conditions.

Prescribe safety for reduced risk

In healthcare construction, the wellbeing of patients, staff and the construction crew is always top of mind. From basic shutdown procedures at the start of the project to Beacon tracking software to monitor on-site worker safety, Riley is committed to taking every precaution to plan for and prevent potential incidents. Protecting those with compromised immune systems especially requires significant forethought and attention to detail. A hyper level of dust mitigation, air monitoring, and noise reducing technology are crucial to ensure a comfortable environment.

Communicate across all lines of operations

For any construction project to be successful, it takes not only efficient planning and processes but highly collaborative communication between the construction project manager and all levels of facility staff. From the front lobby to point-of-care nursing station, everyone who will be affected by significant building projects should be involved during the planning stages. This incorporates all stakeholders’ needs, brings a sense of ownership of the plan, and results in better project execution. Riley’s team conducts weekly meetings with ProHealth to coordinate and share plans to flex around the hospital’s operations. The team also shares progress updates including photos and schedules in these weekly meetings with ProHealth leaders.

“The NICU at ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital offers Waukesha County’s only level III NICU, providing care for infants born as early as 22 weeks and those weighing less than a pound,” said Cora McManus, NICU manager. “The renovation project will allow us to enhance the environment for patient and family comfort, focusing on family-centered care and clinical excellence. The Riley Construction team has been supportive throughout the process, recognizing patient care comes first.”

Build with compassion

The design evokes feelings of calm and joy through warm colors and light.

Caring and compassion are not typically the first qualities that come to mind in a physically and mentally demanding industry traditionally founded on a culture of ‘toughness’. However, Riley Construction believes that prioritizing these ‘softer’ qualities into construction planning and execution is exactly the right path towards a successful project conclusion. Riley’s HIFI values (humility, integrity, flexibility and initiative) and family-oriented culture emphasize that working with a construction company should be a joy, not a frustrating experience. The team lives these values each day by creating close relationships with our project partners, celebrating wins throughout the project, and sharing small gestures of appreciation, like dropping off treats for hospital staff. There is a shared passion across the project team that mirrors the remarkable compassion on display every day by the patient-care staff that support NICU services.

Over the years, Riley Construction has built over 5.5 million square feet of healthcare facility space from interior buildouts with an active hospital to new clinics or medical office buildings. See our healthcare project portfolio for inspiration and reach out to Riley Project Executive Chris Meier at to learn more.

To learn more about ProHealth Care’s NICU capital project at ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital to ensure area residents have the resources they need to be healthy and have healthy babies, visit