As any year comes to a close, there’s a natural tendency to look back and assess what we’ve accomplished. And in the healthcare design realm, we accomplished a lot in 2012. As I think about some of the U.S. projects that opened their doors within the past 12 months, I’m impressed not only by the beauty of the architecture and interiors and how well they reflect their patient base and communities—but also by the care taken behind the scenes, the innovations that add something new to the healthcare facility dialogue and serve patients and staff in a truly meaningful way.

Palomar Medical Center, Escondido, Calif. Opened August 2012. With almost a billion dollars to work with, the integrated team behind Palomar Medical Center sought to push the envelope of high-tech care while implementing as many evidence-based design principles as they could. The design is modern yet perfectly situated within its southern California environs, incorporating a green roof that mimics the rolling hills around it even as it cleverly addresses mechanical, sustainability, and cost challenges.

Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, Houston. Opened March 2012. This serendipitous project allowed Texas Children’s Hospital to expand its services to women, with a strategically designed new building and interiors that cater to the female clientele and fit neatly within the urban site. The pavilion, which connects to Texas Children’s Hospital, makes perfect sense to the facility’s senior vice president: “Our vision and our mission is to improve neonatal outcomes and the long-term health of our children. And the way you do that is to begin taking care of women, even before they decide to become mothers.”

North Shore LIJ Katz Women’s Hospital and Zuckerberg Pavilion, New Hyde Park, N.Y. Opened January 2012. This is another center for women that made a bold statement in 2012, with a sweeping glass curved façade that provides a striking new entry point for the entire Long Island Jewish Medical Center campus. The building actually allowed the campus to rethink and redesign its whole flow, while also upgrading a former 1960s-era building to accommodate modern care models in one of the largest obstetrical programs in the state.

Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Opened June 2012. It’s the tallest children’s hospital in the world, sitting on just 1.8 acres of land with more than 1.2 million square feet of space over 23 floors. Inside, creative solutions like a second-floor emergency department, exuberant local art program, and a stunning two-story garden in the middle of the building make the project unique and a welcome addition to the Chicago community.

Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center, Yonkers, N.Y. Opened February 2012. There’s a ton of building action happening in the children’s sector, and this project north of New York City is a wonderful example of how to design for young patients with long-term medical needs who’ll be staying for a while. The environment is all about home, with special attention paid to bedrooms, family rooms, play rooms, and destination spaces on each patient floor. The warmth, color, and whimsy of the interiors set just the right tone for healing and comfort for the kids, their families, and the staff who serves them.

These five projects are the ones that stand out most clearly in my mind; it’s a subjective list, to be sure, and there are plenty of impressive facilities worth recognition. What’s on your list?