Planning for a Sustainable, High-Performance Health Care Building
The building of high-performance health care facilities presents several unique challenges for design, planning and construction professionals. Hospitals, treatment centers, emergency facilities and other health care operations can consume extremely large amounts of energy. At the same time, health care facilities cannot impose conservation and sustainability initiatives on a wide or indiscriminate scale, since the energy they use is largely dedicated to preserving the life and health of patients. Creating an effective but energy-conscious health care building requires detailed knowledge of what patients and medical professionals need, plus expertise in what the construction industry can provide.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) are currently formulating industry standards that would cover health care construction and related issues. Standard 189.3P, Standard for the Design, Construction and Operation of Sustainable High-Performance Health Care Facilities, can be viewed at the ASHRAE website and is open for public comment through January 21, 2013.
As these standards are being devised, professionals involved in health care building and construction should carefully consider the elements that influence the creation of a medical treatment facility.
Unlike an office building or manufacturing plant, a health care building provides services that cannot be minimized due to energy consumption or sustainability considerations. Characteristics and tasks of a health care facility include:
- Medical treatment – At base, hospitals and other health care units exist to provide medical treatment to the ill and the injured. These services include treatment for the flu or minor injuries, professional diagnosis and treatment of illnesses, childbirth services, major or minor surgery, emergency treatment and trauma care. All of these services require the expenditure of energy for lighting, diagnostic equipment, monitoring devices, HVAC equipment and related machinery, sanitary facilities and nutritional services.
- Life-sustaining equipment and procedures – Hospitals and health care facilities provide critical and urgent medical treatment that preserves health and sustains life. Intensive care wards contain vital equipment and devices that cannot be compromised without endangering fragile lives. Emergency and trauma departments cannot be limited by sustainability concerns when working to save the life of an automobile accident victim, for example.
- Simultaneous treatment for multiple individuals – Most health care facilities can accommodate many individuals at once, whether in multiple treatment areas, entire floors of patient rooms or in several different geographically dispersed buildings. The treating of numerous patients at once requires energy and resource use multiplied many times over.
- Conscious stewardship of the environment – Hospitals, health care buildings, nursing homes, outpatient facilities and medical parks are often very large or are part of an extended network or campus. As such, they can be the greatest consumers of energy and resources in a community, such as electricity, water, fuel and other utilities. For this reason, hospital administrations often see part of their mission as being continually aware of the amount of resources being dedicated to their medical mission and making a conscious effort to conserve energy, avoid waste, use sustainable and renewable resources where available and aid the environment where possible.
Needs of a health care facility
A health care facility must concentrate on areas such as site sustainability, water use, energy expenditures, indoor air and environmental quality and the effect the building and surrounding areas have on the environment. Medical treatment centers must also take into consideration the unique types of dangerous medical waste, atmospheric emissions and effluents and other pollution the facility generates. A truly sustainable plan for a high-performance health care building must account for the facility’s construction, presence and ongoing operation.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial and Residential settings. For more information about the importance of sustainability in the construction of high-performance health care facilities and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!
Image Credit: kenteegardin