Healthcare News & Insights

Hospitals embracing greener pastures


Clearly, hospitals need to stay open 24/7. But, as a result, they consume an enormous amount of energy and produce tons of waste: 7,000 tons of waste each day to be exact, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA suggests a number of steps hospitals can take to lessen their impact on the environment, which include:

  • proper waste management
  • reducing medical (red-bag) waste
  • increasing recycling
  • purchasing Energy Star products
  • conducting energy audits, and
  • purchasing green power.

For even greater impact, the EPA recommends:

  • actively managing toxic materials
  • greening hospital supply chains
  • purchasing EPEAT-rated electronics
  • using the LEED rating system for new construction and renovation projects, and
  • using green landscaping methods.

In fact, many healthcare facilities enthusiastically embrace the agency’s guidelines. These recommendations are commonly found in new building designs and renovations, and are a big part of many hospitals’ sustainability programs.

The hospitals listed below in alphabetical order are examples of this industry trend. They show how incorporating design elements that channel the healing power of nature; using locally-sourced, recycled building materials; and engineering solutions that manage water and electricity wisely can benefit patients’ well-being and save organizations money at the same time.

Advocate Lutheran General Hospital and Children’s Hospital, Park Ridge, IL

The patient tower at this healthcare facility is LEED Gold certified, meaning it meets sustainability standards for land development, water and energy efficiency, and indoor air quality set by the U.S. Green Building Council. The organization was recognized by Practice Greenhealth with its “Partner for Change with Distinction” award as a model of how health facilities can develop pollution prevention programs and use sustainability standards to improve the lives of their patients and the community as a whole.

Boone Hospital Center, Columbia, MO

In June 2011, Boone Hospital unveiled its newest addition: a 128 private-bed patient tower built using the latest “green” technologies. Ninety-five percent of the construction waste was either recycled or reused. The LEED Gold-certified tower features triple pane windows and rooftop solar panels for heating water, plus a 30,000 gallon rainwater harvesting tank, natural lighting, native landscaping and occupancy lighting sensors.

Boulder Community Hospital Foothills Campus, Boulder, CO

In designing this building, careful consideration was given to indoor and outdoor lighting, water conservation, landscaping, the surrounding wildlife corridor and wetlands, and the facility’s impact on air quality. As a result, it was the first hospital in the U.S. to receive LEED certification. To optimize the energy efficiency of the $75 million campus, a dedicated power plant was built to provide it with heat, lighting and hot water.

Bronson Methodist Hospital, Kalamazoo, MI

Sustainability appears at the top of this hospital’s priority list alongside patient safety and quality of healthcare. Bronson’s received Practice Greenhealth’s Environmental Leadership Circle award 10 years in a row in recognition of its healthcare sustainability leadership. This facility’s green design elements include solar shading, the use of local and regional building materials, interior elements designed from recycled materials and air temperature control, just to name a few.

Dell Children’s Medical Center, Austin, TX

The Dell Children’s Hospital was the first hospital in the world to achieve LEED Platinum certification. During the construction phase, builders reused materials from the existing site and added only natural materials native to Texas. Twenty percent of the 32 acre campus is devoted to open space that promotes biodiversity and rain infiltration, but also enhances the hospital’s natural setting. The main building features green roof systems that absorb the sun’s heat and keep the interior cool, plus an herb garden that supplies the culinary team with ingredients for hospital meals.

Dominican Hospital, Santa Cruz, CA 

As part of Dignity Health, Dominican Hospital participates in two programs – the Healthy Hospitals Initiative and Healthcare without Harm – to ensure they make a positive impact on the environment, as well as their patients’ lives. They publicize their efforts with a yearly Social Responsibility Report that highlights their activities in the areas of sustainability and community engagement. As a Mercury-free and PVC/DEHP-free hospital, Dominican follows the Dignity corporate ethos of believing in “the interdependence between human health and our environment.”

Franklin Woods Community Hospital, Johnson City, TN

The architects, builders and hospital leadership made it their goal to follow LEED sustainability guidelines when designing this hospital. When the building was complete, it became the first hospital in Tennessee to achieve LEED Silver certification. Landscape design plays a big role in the hospital’s sustainability rating by using many of the plants, rocks and soils indigenous to the region, as well as high-efficiency irrigation systems and low-water plants.

Greenwich Hospital, Greenwich, CT

Even before “going green” became popular, Greenwich Hospital incorporated sustainability practices into its land use, garden design and building construction. A “Green Committee,” which consists of staff members from facilities management, environmental services, electrical, purchasing and plant operations, review all hospital initiatives to make sure they meet the organization’s high sustainability standards. Overall, the hospital reduced its energy use by 33.6%, eliminated 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide per year and cut energy costs by $800,000 a year.

Gundersen Lutheran, La Crosse, WI

Gundersen Lutheran hospital is striving to become energy independent by 2014, and it’s well on its way to achieving such an ambitious goal. It’s evaluated every hospital operation using energy audits.  The assessments examined heating and cooling systems, and lighting, in addition to methods for improving efficiency and employee behavior. The assessments are expected to save the hospital $800,000 per year.

Kaiser Permanente Modesto Medical Center, Modesto, CA

Computerworld recently recognized Kaiser Permanente as No. 1 on its list of the Top Green IT Organizations – the only national healthcare provider to make the list. The hospital implemented green IT practices that reduced its energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, as well as its use of toxic chemicals and hazardous waste production. In total, the organization’s green initiatives saved more than $10 million per year and eliminated the need to purchase and dispose of 40 tons of harmful chemicals.

Kiowa County Memorial Hospital, Greensburg, KS

In 2007, the city of Greensburg, Kansas, was nearly wiped out by a massive tornado that destroyed homes, businesses and the original Kiowa County Memorial Hospital. Three years later, the community rebuilt the hospital with the goal of achieving LEED Platinum certification. Its sustainable building materials, water efficiency, wind power, air quality, land usage and more, landed it the coveted rating. It’s now one of only three hospitals in the nation that belong to the select Platinum group.

Laguna Honda Hospital, San Francisco

California’s first LEED certified hospital incorporated green elements, such as evaporative cooling; low-VOC paints, wood, glues and flooring materials; low construction waste and more to achieve the Silver rating. The campus’s buildings are designed to let in as much natural light as possible and each bedroom features operable windows that allow air to circulate freely, both of which reduce the structures’ use of energy for heating and cooling.

Madigan Healthcare System, Tacoma, WA

Madigan Healthcare of the U.S. Army Medical Department is a recipient of Practice Greenhealth’s Environmental Leadership Circle award for their environmentally-friendly healthcare practices. Driven by the “Madigan Green Team” created in 2005, they set a 25-year goal to become a more sustainable community and developed a plan to help them achieve it that centers on net-zero waste, energy and water initiatives. So far the system has recycled 590 tons of waste (which saves the organization over $70,000 annually), composted 47 tons of food waste and recycled three tons of medical blue wrap.

Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, Pittsburgh

Sustainability is an integral part of all Magee’s operations. Since 2005, the hospital’s put environmental information into its patient educational materials and its programming for new parents including childbirth and newborn classes. Hospital staff members participate by setting goals and measuring the organization’s sustainability efforts as members of MWH’s “Green Team.” Magee also recycles, uses non-toxic chemicals and cleaning products, and biodegradable corn and paper products instead of plastic or foam food and beverage containers.

Metro Health Hospital, Wyoming, MI

Metro Health Hospital is another Practice Greenhealth award-winner, a Department of Environmental Quality Clean Corporate Citizen, and one of the “Best and Brightest Sustainable Companies.” A strong focus on sustainability through storm water management, recycling and energy conservation earned the new Metro Health Hospital LEED certification. The building includes a 48,500 square foot green roof and rainwater gardens. The hospital also eliminated the use of medical equipment containing mercury.

The New Stanford Hospital, Menlo Park, CA

The current 1950’s-style Stanford Hospital & Clinics is being rebuilt as part of The Renewal Project, an initiative that will also see several other areas of the Stanford University Medical Center renovated and expanded. In addition to stabilizing the structure to withstand seismic activity, the builders are focused on earning LEED certification. Design plans include letting in as much natural light as possible, rooftop gardens and outdoor courtyards.

Palomar Medical Center West, Escondido, CA

Slated to open in August 2012, this new high-tech hospital’s standout features include a 1.5 acre green roof, courtyards, skylights and unique cooling systems. Green measures have been used in every phase of the project, from land use during construction to the materials used in finishing phases, which its architects and builders estimate will reduce energy consumption by about 25% when it opens.

Patrick H. Dollard Discovery Health Center, Harris, NY

This LEED-certified health facility features a ground-source heat pump system that provides radiant heating and cooling plus structural shading devices and a reflective metal roof that help keep the building cool during the summer months. It also relies on extensive daylighting, and efficient products and equipment to save energy. Surrounded by farm fields, the grounds, once home to a chicken farm, feature many walking paths, an open pasture and native plants.

Ridgeview Medical Center, Waconia, MN

Ridgeview Medical Center began weaving sustainability strategies throughout its departmental operations and organizational culture nearly a decade ago. RMC won the 2003 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Waste and Pollution Prevention for implementing sustainable practices, such as using mercury-free equipment, reducing medical waste and water usage, and eliminating toxins in cleaning products.

Riverside Medical Center, Kankakee, IL

The East Tower addition to this medical center features a state of the art “Vegetative Living Green Roof System.” The aesthetically pleasing appearance of the vegetation has the added benefit of reducing heating and cooling costs by 20%. The building’s other green features include efficient low E glass, heat resistant roofing, floors made from a mixture of recycled materials and renewable resources, and low-VOC paint.

San Juan Regional Medical Center, Farmington, NM

The materials used to build the patient tower at SJRMC came from the dramatic landscape of its Southwest desert setting, which also inspired its design. Sustainable design elements such as screened porches and deep overhangs help offset the high cost of cooling the hospital in such a hot, dry climate.

The Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, Hackensack, NJ

The Hackensack University Medical Center’s pavilion was designed to provide exceptional patient care with an emphasis on providing an environmentally healthy environment for patients. Nearly every aspect of the building — from its design, medical equipment, energy systems, cleaning supplies and linens to its food preparation methods — incorporates sustainability principles.

Sequoia Hospital, Redwood City, CA

Like Dominican Hospital, this Dignity Health facility embraces sustainability as a core value. The hospital’s newly redesigned pavilion has environmentally friendly features that facilitate water management and energy savings.  The plans call for transforming almost an acre of the campus into landscaped grounds.

University of New Mexico Cancer Treatment and Clinical Research Facility, Albuquerque, NM

This highly technical cancer treatment center demanded state-of-the-art equipment and a building that fit into a unique natural landscape with rich local traditions. Keeping these requirements in mind, designers created a bold and modern facility that channels its surroundings through the use of natural colors, textures and interior design elements. Sustainability principles were incorporated throughout such as maximum daylight, water harvesting and drainage, automated lighting controls, and low-VOC interior materials and adhesives. The administration wing of the building is LEED Gold certified.

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