Redefining Healthcare with Design of the Green Hospital
Corporate Wellness Magazine
The design of eco-friendly, energy-efficient, green construction projects has been gaining attention in all quarters, from the construction of private homes, office buildings, to large buildings such as hospital complexes. In the health sector, the so-called “Green Hospital” is a concept that is beginning to redefine how healthcare facilities are built to protect the environment while saving human lives.
The greater the amount of energy consumed in a hospital, the greater the release of toxic wastes to the environment, causing damage which may put human lives at risk of other diseases and death.
The shift to constructing sustainable healthcare facilities is largely centered on reducing the carbon burden in hospitals while ensuring that the occupants – staff and patients – are kept safe.
More and more hospital administrators are beginning to involve architects in incorporating green concepts into hospital design. In fact, according to a report by SBI Energy, green building renovations will experience a significant increase.
Hospitals utilize more resources and produce more waste materials than most other commercial buildings of a similar size. Healthcare facilities in the country consume more than 315 gallons of water per bed every day and an average US hospital consumes 103.600 Btu of natural gas per square foot annually.
In a typical healthcare center, lighting, water heating, and space heating account for more than 65% of the energy consumption. Therefore, it remains essential for the construction of healthcare facilities to involve incorporation of green designs and concepts into the process to reduce the impact on the environment, cut down operational costs, and increase energy efficiency.
Hospital administrations have teamed up with designers, architects and construction companies to achieve the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, also called LEED. LEED is a system developed by the United States Green Building Council to rate a building and certify it as “green” based on design, construction, and operations of the building.
Green Hospital Initiatives
Core measures adopted for green buildings include the use of energy-efficient lighting systems and medical equipment and use of tech-enhanced renewable energy systems. In addition to using energy more efficiently, hospitals are looking at how to create designs that allow more daylight exposure and natural ventilation into the environment.
Improving the air quality is an essential component of designing the green hospital. Hospitals are exploring efficient ways of reducing the air content of toxins and contaminants across all corners of the building.
The California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), for instance, has initiated several design features to achieve a green working environment. One of such features is the use of a low-flow plumbing system in a bid to save three million gallons of water every year for the state of California, which many experts have said may experience a long period of drought.
CPMC also has a design initiative to capture rainwater from the roof and use it to irrigate the landscaping, a measure, which they say, would save 180,000 gallons of drinkable water every year. In addition, the collected rainwater will also be used to operate cooling towers which the hospital uses for their air conditioning system.
For energy efficiency, CPMC has implemented a number of green design initiatives to achieve energy consumption at a level, 14 percent less than that of the average US hospital. Some of these design features include use of high-efficiency windows, super insulated roofs, use of sensors which automatically turn the lights off or on in a room depending on whether it is occupied.
In addition to these, the patient rooms have been redesigned to allow more exposure to natural light and ventilation.
The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, a division of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has also adopted ways to cut energy consumption and minimize environmental pollutants in two of its buildings for which it received the LEED certification.
The Children’s Hospital achieved this structural shift largely by using green materials and design in place of conventional systems. Some of the adopted green designs include systems for monitoring carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, use of certified wood products, use of renewable materials in its research building, water-efficient landscaping, minimizing on-site light pollution, elimination of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and halons, and use of local and regional construction material to reduce transport burden.
In addition, the hospital implemented designs that increased exposure to natural light. Operations in the hospital were also modified in the light of the green initiative. The hospital noted that having their daily operational activities meet the requirements of a green building was equally as important as implementing green design initiatives.
Some of the operational best practices adopted by the hospital to make it sustainable include the use of nontoxic cleaning chemicals and microfiber mops, discontinuation of use of mercury-containing solutions and medical devices, and use of paper products made from recycled material.
The hospital also established a recycling program for lab chemical wastes of toxic solutions, as well as for paper, plastic waste, light bulbs, batteries, and cardboard.
The Benefits of Green Buildings
There is a growing body of evidence supporting the establishment of these initiatives in the design and construction of building projects. On a large scale, these green design and operational initiatives help in achieving a number of global goals including addressing climate change, driving economic growth, and creating sustainable communities.
The World Green Building Council groups the benefits of green buildings into three – environmental, economic, and social benefits.
According to a report by the council, green buildings in Australia which received the “Green star certification” by the Green Building Council of Australia led to a 62% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when compared with the average Australian building. On a global level, green buildings will save as much as 84 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050.
Green building also offers a lot of economic benefits globally, on a country level, and on a building level. Some of the benefits include cost savings on utility bills, lower costs of construction, a higher property value for estate developers, and job creation. Building owners note, as reported in a report by Dodge Data & Analytics, that green buildings – whether newly constructed or renovated – created a 7 percent increase in asset value compared to traditional buildings.
Socially, the green building offers a number of benefits to occupants. Studies have shown that workers in green buildings reported a 101 percent improvement in cognitive scores. In addition, employees in green buildings with well-ventilated offices reported sleeping an average of 46 minutes more every night.
As healthcare evolves and administrators and providers explore strategies to promote better health care and lower administrative costs, constructing or renovating hospitals using green building design initiatives remains one of the core strategies, which no doubt has immense benefits not only for the hospital and immediate environment but for the world at large.