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How are hospitals going green?

Hospitals of the Future

Hospitals are increasingly aware of their environmental impact on patients as well as the surrounding community. According to the 2011 Hospital Management Survey, nearly one in five healthcare facilities are using LEED requirements in new construction and many more are following LEED guidelines without pursuing certification [source: Health Facilities Management]. One example is San Francisco's LEED Silver-rated Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, which features an energy efficient HVAC system, auto-on water facets, and materials with low quantities of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The hospital estimates it will cut its energy consumption by 30 percent and save $7 million over 10 years [source: Laguna Honda].

Another example is Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin, which was the first hospital in the world to achieve LEED Platinum status, the highest level of certification offered by USGBC [source: Dell Children's]. Designed from the ground up with the environment in mind, Dell Children's has high-efficiency mechanical and plumbing systems as well as a three-acre garden and six interior courtyards that represent the six distinct biomes found in the 46-county region that the hospital serves [source: Weisel]. The hospital achieved LEED Platinum certification by earning 52 LEED points as a result of these and many other innovations both during the construction and operations phases of the project.

Taking green initiatives to the level of LEED Platinum Certification may be beyond the reach of many hospitals, but these efforts very often pay for themselves over time. According to Alan Bell, director of design and construction for the Dell Children's facility, hospital-based green initiatives can help with fundraising.

"LEED Platinum certification was a big contributor in terms of philanthropy for Dell Children's," says Bell. "We had a goal of $75 million to support the project, and we raised $87 million."

Healthcare facilitates that want to pursue LEED certification can now do so with the help of LEED for Healthcare, which provides guidance on achieving LEED certification for hospitals and medical centers [source: USGBC].

In keeping with the mantra, "First, do no harm," hospitals have a special responsibility to provide a health-promoting environment to the patients and communities they serve. Going green is an important step in that direction.