The fight against climate change requires everyone to do their bit – from individuals to major corporations. It is widely acknowledged that improved energy use, renewable energy sources, recycling and other green initiatives can help with carbon neutral goals. Much of the focus here falls upon homeowners and big business.
We sometimes overlook the fact that massive facilities like universities, airports, and hospitals need to go green too. Thankfully, many hospitals have heard the call, and a select few are ahead of the game. Some impressive medical facilities across the US offer some valuable lessons.
So Which Are The Greenest Hospitals In The US Right Now?
Five facilities come top of the list right now. They are West Kendall Baptist Hospital in Miami, New York Presbyterian Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Helen Devos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids and Providence Newberg Medical Center in Oregon.
Each of these facilities has similarities and differences in their approach. Some major schemes are in place throughout, while others have their quirks. For example, the West Kendall Center in Miami can sustain a category five hurricane and remain self-sufficient for the following five days. Here we will look at some the main factors that determine a green hospital and the way that these top facilities implement them.
First of all, each of these five top green hospitals shares LEED certification in common. LEED certification is an important aspect of a green reputation in America. Each of the five facilities highlighted in this article is all certified to some degree, many with Gold status. This is a proud bragging right for all involved, with many enjoying additional accolades.
Providence Newberg Medical Center proudly claim to be the first Gold LEED certified hospital in the country. New York Presbyterian Hospital achieved their Gold LEED status for participating in Mayor Bloomberg’s Hospital Challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2018.
In addition to this, they won an Energy Star Partner of the Year award in 2014 and 2015. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is the only Michigan hospital with a Gold certification. In fact, there are one of only two dedicated US children’s hospitals with this certification.
The Use Of Recycled Materials And Recycling Programs In The US Hospitals
Recycling is one of the first things to come to mind when considering a green approach at home. Reductions in plastic, especially single-use, as well as paper, can have a significant impact on waste and manufacturing. Then there are the collection services for other recyclable materials.
These large hospitals run the risk of going through high quantities of materials, so paperless approaches and material collections could be significant. There is also the chance to use recycled materials in the construction of new facilities where possible.
This importance of recycling, in both forms, means that all the main US hospitals need to improve on their reliance. The five facilities highlighted here all play their part well.
To begin with, all of them claim to have considered environmentally friendly construction materials with recycled components. This is important when we consider the scale of these buildings and quantities of materials used. Some take this careful use of materials all the way down to the low emission paint on the walls. Then there are those that go further with their recycling programs on site.
The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has committed to a paperless approach to their material and brochures. Meanwhile, the West Kendall Baptist Hospital claims to recycle more than 20 tons of solid waste per month.
Then there is the use of renewable power. Again, this is one of the more obvious considerations for any homeowner that wants a greener home. The main aim here is to either reduce conventional energy use with a solar panel or to go off the grid entirely. This is easier for a smaller household because of the size of the building and energy requirements. Hospitals need a more reliable, non-stop source of power. Still, there are those that can scale up these installations of solar panels or wind turbines to meet their targets.
Green Energy Is A Crucial Factor For All Of These Hospitals
Providence Newberg Medical Center, meanwhile, promise the use of 100% Green power. New York-Presbyterian Hospital boasts the presence of what they call a “climate wall,” which contains computerized solar vanes to generate power. Helen Davos has its own on-site green energy system for locally-produced, sustainable energy. These localized installations provide a clean, reliable source of power with massive implications for energy saving measures.
Controlling The Temperature Of These Hospitals In A Green Manner
Temperature and heating is an issue with these large facilities. Every major building needs a reliable heating and air-con system to provide a comfortable environment. This is especially true when we involve patients. Large scale heating systems and HVAC systems would undo all the good work seen so far. The answer is to regulate the flow of energy and the insulation of the building to reduce the need for these energy-hungry systems. Nobody wants to cut the heating and put patients at risk, but there are alternative methods available.
So how do these top five green hospitals in America manage to maintain the right temperature across their facilities? Providence Newberg Medical Center use specially treated windows for heat preservation, as do Helen Devos Children’s Hospital with their custom built glass for great heat efficiency. This is one of the added bonuses of these institutions using renewable and green sources of material from the outset. Many also ensure that they use the best, energy-efficient systems to reduce their energy usage.
The Choice Of Lighting And Other Means Of Energy Efficiency In These Modern Hospitals
Improved energy use also relies on the way the way use appliances and the efficiency of those devices. Experts advise homeowners to switch out appliances for more efficient models, turn everything off at the mains. The same goes for lighting. Where possible, we need to switch to efficient bulbs and turn them off when not in use. This is easy for a 2-bed family home than a major hospital. Still, committed initiatives for lighting and power-saving tech can make a massive difference.
These five green US hospitals have all found ways to improve the use of lighting and other appliances to reduce their energy use. Providence Newberg Medical Center has one of the more interesting approaches when it comes to lighting their hospital. Here there are clever occupancy sensors on the lamps, as well as on the air conditioning and heating. They also worked to improve the use of natural light through careful placement of courtyards. High-efficiency lighting is also in place at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
As for the use of high-efficiency equipment and tech, West Kendall Baptist Hospital installed an automatic shut down on the monitors of their computers. This means that 8,000 desktops now shut down after 30 minutes of inactivity. They estimate $150,000 in annual energy savings from this measure alone.
What About Water Use In These Large Buildings?
It is easy to focus on energy consumption, green energy sources and carbon footprints, and measures to help the environment. It is all about meeting those carbon emission targets and goals for green energy consumption. However, there is also the issue of water efficiency and water waste.
Many homes and business waste water due to inefficient systems and bad habits. It is essential to save water where possible, especially in states at risk of drought. Hospitals could struggle with their size, large patient numbers, high water use and the need for sanitation. There are those that find ways to improve their approach.
These top US hospitals for green initiatives did not leave water consumption out of the equation at all. The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is perhaps the most interesting of the five here. They aim to improve their water efficiency with a combination of improved landscaping and modern water fixtures. Helen Devos Children’s Hospital also works with water reduction plumbing to reduce usage.
Improving The Green Credentials Of Hospitals With Green Spaces
An excellent way to offset energy use and carbon emissions is to create some green spaces. This is easy enough at home where we can develop gardens, allotments spaces or even containers on a balcony.
Many businesses like to do their bit with similar approaches to planting, just on a larger scale. Some improve the landscaping on the ground, or even the roof, to encourage plant life and wildlife. Those that don’t have space or permission may invest in other tree-planting scheme or charity organizations. Hospitals also have this opportunity, and some make brilliant use of their available space.
Many top hospitals in the US now offer green spaces for relaxation and sensory experiences. They understand the importance of nature and a natural view on health care. This is why New York Presbyterian Hospital provides so many great views of the Hudson River from its wards. They go further for green spaces for the environment with their own atrium. Elsewhere, the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh focuses on rooftop gardens, Providence Newberg Medical Center has a healing and wellness garden, and Helen Devos Children’s Hospital has its own vegetated roofing.
Going Green Through Community Outreach Programs
This idea of tree planting and charity work leads to this idea of environmentally friendly outreach initiatives. There are two ways that local businesses and organizations can do this. One approach is to educate the staff and clients about their efforts to encourage good practice away from the facility. The other is to take staff to schools and other places in need of a better green space.
There are some impressive community outreach programs with these top green hospitals. The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and New York Presbyterian Hospital focus on education within the facility. This means teaching staff and patients about green matters within the institution.
Baptist Health, who runs West Kendall, have their own Hands on Miami Day, where they take knowledge and skills to the local community. For example, employees worked to refurbish the landscaping and facilities of the Florida Baptist Children’s Home
Expanding A Green Attitude And Green Hospital Through Public Transport Links
At this point, the building itself is pretty green regarding the materials used, the energy consumption and appliances, and the green spaces around it. However, there is still the issue of carbon emissions from vehicles traveling to and from the facilities. This means patients’ cars, staff transportation, ambulances, delivery trucks and more.
One solution is to encourage staff to leave the cars and home and either car pool, cycle or take public transport. This also means improving public transport links with the city for ease of access.
Again, many of these top medical institutions are ahead of the game when it comes to their public transport links and reliance on cars. Hospitals cannot stop visitors from driving to see loved ones. However, they can encourage staff to embrace a greener form of travel.
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is a great example with their discounted parking for car pools. They also strive to maintain strong public transportation links. Across town, at UPMC, there is the promise to ensure of natural gas fuel for 90% of the UPMC’s shuttle fleet. Meanwhile, New York Presbyterian Hospital provides bike storage to help those traveling in to work on bicycles.
These five green hospitals show that it is possible to create an impressive, environmentally friendly facility with the right attitude and elements in place.
There are lots of different considerations here to create a greener hospital, and some are easier than others. It can all depend on location, the size of the facility, the funds that are available and the commitment of those in charge. Some will try and focus on one of these elements to reduce energy use or improve their record on other environmental issues. Others will aim to improve in each area.
The work and results at these top green hospitals show that hard work does pay off. These gold-rated institutions manage to balance patient care and green environments with an effective, efficient facility. With time, many more of America’s top hospitals should catch up.
(Source: Gap Medics)