Apr 19, 2019
Sustainability is not often at the top of the list of concerns for hospital designers and architects. It's no surprise that when an organization seeks to build a new facility, their primary focus tends to be on patient care and comfort, but that doesn't mean sustainable design and products are simply discarded and forgotten about.
Sustainable hospital design is a growing trend in the industry, not only because most industries are looking to go green, but also because hospitals are the second largest commercial user of energy. New facilities stand to save millions each year by cutting back on waste and investing in more sustainable technology and products.
How are hospitals becoming greener? There are a few strategies that have been implemented over the years.
Properly lighting facilities results in a huge consumption of energy, and the commercial sector, which includes hospitals, used more than, 141 billion kilowatt hours for lighting in 2018. As organizations that operate 24/7/365, hospitals need to be lit every second of every day, but that doesn't mean they have to be lit inefficiently. The first major step healthcare designers have taken in combatting energy waste is to design facilities that are rich in natural light. This not only cuts back on the amount of energy that needs to be used, it can also have a healing effect on patients as an added bonus.
Hospitals are also implementing smart, energy efficient LED lighting that automatically turns on when people enter certain areas of a facility and shuts off when they leave. These automated lights help keep unused areas of a facility dark, which saves energy, while also preventing people from having to touch switches, which helps reduce the spread of bacteria. Some LED light systems are even designed to mimic natural daylight cycles in patient rooms, creating a more comfortable setting for patients to rest and heal.
The U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program is leading the way in overseeing the certification on thousands of environmentally sustainable healthcare facility projects across the country. Organizations are estimated to have spent $960 billion by 2023 on various energy and water efficiency upgrades at their facilities, which are estimated to yield about a 20% ROI on existing buildings and 10% ROI on new buildings. Everything from insulation to proper ventilation and building materials are taken into account when achieving LEED certification on a project.
Sustainable hospital design goes beyond a facility's architectural design and layout, it also covers the products they purchase. Hospitals are investing in products that are more durable, last longer and are made from recycled, environmentally friendly materials. In order to reduce waste, hospitals are investing in higher quality furniture that is made with better materials because they need to be replaced less often. They are also choosing products like glass patient room whiteboards that are made using recycled materials. These environmentally sustainable decisions are helping them save money while going green.