LEED for Healthcare
By Dantè A. Clemons
Issue 4 Summer 2010
As the national discussion on health care ensues, the design industry is implementing a few ideas of its own.
In 2002, The American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) developed the Green Guide for Health Care (GGHC), the healthcare sector’s first quantifiable sustainable design toolkit. The GGHC integrated both environmental and health standards into the planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance of healthcare facilities. Designers, owners and operators were encouraged to use the GGHC to design, construct and maintain high performance healing environments.
The GGHC focused on design considerations specific to the healthcare industry that weren’t addressed in previous sustainability manuals including non-stop operations, regulatory requirements and the handling of chemicals. The GGHC was applicable both to new construction, and to renovations and rehabilitations of existing facilities. Additionally, the voluntary, self-certifying guide recommended operational procedures for all facilities related to health and healing. After an extensive pilot program in 2004, which gathered feedback from over
100 healthcare facilities, the GGHC formed a joint partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to develop Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards for the healthcare industry. Through this partnership, the USGBC is developing a LEED Healthcare certificate process. The GGHC will continue to develop tools to improve and inform future design standards.
On average, hospitals consume twice the amount of energy as typical office buildings. This is due in part to their primary function – to save lives. Hospitals are a complicated building type, requiring energy-intensive lighting and equipment, sophisticated mechanical systems to manage ventilation and temperature control, and complex operational processes. The healthcare sector has the potential to benefit the most from LEED standardization.
LEED Healthcare reinforces the inherent relationship between the built environment and human health. Studies have shown increases in the health, happiness and productivity of people who live and work in green buildings. Likewise, patients residing in green hospitals have shown greater emotional wellbeing, reduced requests for pain medication and have shorter hospital stays. As the healthcare sector moves towards greener practices, designers play a vital role in reshaping, redesigning and reconstructing the concept of healing itself, both in the environment and the body. That is another national discussion worth having.