When Green Isn't Enough

Sustainable healthcare design is a strange beast.  It's not just about saving energy, but about providing a better quality of life for the users of the building.  A handy source for melding the two is the Green Guide for Healthcare, which acknowledges some of the distinct issues facing sustainable hospitals, and begins to take it one step further, weaving in elements of evidence based design (EBD). Other sources I like to consult are Practice Greenhealth, Healthcare without Harm, and the treasure trove of information on EBD that is the Center for Health Design.  Emerging mateirals such as the UL Environment hybrid standards and CSI's new GreenFormat also can help filter through a wide range of data in multiple formats. 

The best way to pursue sustainable goals is to understand that most of what they are working to accomplish can either lay the foundation for or amplify other goals that an Owner aalready has.  By taking the time to identify and codify Owner Project Requirements (OPR), they can be matched to green goals.

Being sustainable as a matter of conscience or energy savings is nice, but healthcare organizations should view it as a prerequisite to meeting their infection control requirements, staff retention goals, and patient satisfaction plans as well as a tool to improve the overall outcomes for cases.  When you look at green measures through an EBD lens, you get a whole different game plan for your project.  As my diagrams below illustrate, there are parallel paths for both sustainable and EBD strategies, which helps strengthen the argument for any measure that satisfies both aims:

These diagrams illustrate sustainable strategies (some linked to multiple LEED credits) and parallel EBD strategies with outcomes listed for both. As this comparison shows, many sustainable strategies also lead to direct EBD gains-a win/win/win result for your project.

Integrating EBD and sustainability into the project from the planning and conceptual stage encourages Owners to select strategies that support and inform their design goals for the project. To get you started on the visioning path, consider these strategies:
1.  Stepping back to look at the big picture from a “whole building” point of view
2.  Master planning infrastructure not just buildings- systems expandability
3.  Making bold moves for big results
4.  Incorporating redundancy and reliability into the sustainable plan

Go forth and be life-sustaining, not just sustainable.