Hospitals in the U.S are known to be among the largest consumers of energy. They are open 24 hours, have hundreds of people living and circulating in the buildings everyday and in addition to the usual systems that AC, Heating or Ventilation, they require high energy consumption machinery such as Refrigeration, Sterilization or Medical devices to run all day. Hospitals come third, only after food service and food sales, in terms of consumption of energy. But the energy consumption is not the only problem Hospitals currently face, water consummation and waste management are issues that Healthcare facilities must consider and resolve. Such high consumptions could persuade some of these hospitals to take actions and lean toward the LEED certification model.
How exactly are Hospitals taking the plunge?
The main solution for Hospitals in order to fight and fix these challenges is to adopt a “greener” strategy or way of doing things. However, going green is a vague concept and there are several ways to engage this commitment, but as long as the results are tangible, the “How?” doesn’t really matter. Let’s focus on the main issues we previously mentioned, water and waste management, there are some simple strategies that are being implemented by some Hospitals; basics low-flow faucets can reduce water consumption by one gallon per person and per day, and low-flow shower heads can preserve four time that much, not only is the environmental impact reduced but so is the operational spending. Another high source of spending, waste management is for most medical centers the second largest expense after labor cost. Hospitals in the U.S produce more than 5.9 million tons of solid waste annually and this cost up to $10 billion annually to the medical industry. The creation of an Electronic Medical Report or EMR can not only grandly diminish the amount of paper used but also improves efficiency, indeed EMRs also allow a quicker access to the information for Hospitals staff.
The LEED certification
As we can see, some establishments are trying to lower their resource consumptions by implementing various strategies. Others decide to follow the U.S. Green Building Council or USGBC, who provided credentials such as the LEED green associate or LEED AP but also LEED certifications for buildings that are Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The 2011 Hospital Management Survey stated that slightly less than 1 out of 5 (19%) healthcare facilities were using the LEED requirement in new constructions while many others were simply following the LEED guidelines without any certifications. There are 28 hospitals in the U.S currently holding a Platinum (3) or Gold certification (25). The Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin for example, was the first hospital in the country and in the world to receive a platinum certification. This facility was designed with a solid environmental state of mind and includes green roofs, reducing heating and cooling loads, a high-efficiency mechanical and plumbing system as well as many other features making it a great example of what a green building can be. The Dell children’s also owns inside courtyards representing various ecosystems from the area, creating a peaceful and aesthetic atmosphere for its young patients. Adopting these LEED initiatives might be inaccessible for various hospitals at the moment, but these sacrifices, at least monetary, usually worth the spending for future prospects. The San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital, certified silver, is another great example. It features an energy efficient HVAC system (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) and uses bicycles and other alternative fuel and electric vehicles for its staff. This hospital planned to cut its energy consumption by 30% and save $7 million over its first 10 years of operation.
As an important symbol of health and hygiene, hospitals have a certain responsibility in sowing how environmental friendly buildings and new constructions should be thought and designed. The LEED certification is the first step to reinforce and legitimate this process.