Sustainable Design for Healthcare
Environmentally sustainable healthcare operations create a culture of wellbeing.
Heightened environmental awareness, public concerns about sustainable development, stringent environmental protection laws and the realities of climate change are altering the way healthcare providers operate. In addition, there is a growing awareness of the therapeutic benefits of good hospital design which can positively influence clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction and the performance of staff. Governments around the world impose strict sustainability requirements on healthcare buildings, but many providers elect to exceed regulatory requirements, aware that, through the integration of environmentally sustainable operations, they can cut their energy costs while creating a culture of nurturing and commitment for the wellbeing of both patients and hospital staff.
Exemplars of Sustainable Design for Healthcare
As experts in sustainable design for healthcare, we have extensive experience helping hospitals reduce their carbon footprint during construction and operation, without compromising patient safety or hygiene. Our portfolio includes some of the world’s best examples of sustainable healthcare design such as the Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas, the first hospital in the world to achieve a Platinum-level LEED accreditation. By optimising heat recovery, ventilation and lighting design, and using as much daylight as possible, our designers cut net energy use by 50%, compared to a similarly occupied building in the same climatic conditions.
Energy Challenges in a Specialist Environment
Healthcare facilities are some of the top energy consumers in the built environment, but driving down energy consumption is challenging since they are heavily dependent on the building services required both for day to day operation like heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and for specialist systems like clinical gas distribution. Infection control drives the selection of many materials and technologies such as the use of radiant panels above ceilings rather than conventional radiators which can attract dirt, and the supply of fresh air to operating theatres and critical care units.
Our designs for the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, a new building which achieved a LEED Gold certification, included an optimised envelope to minimise air-conditioning loads, high-performance lighting design, ultra-efficient plumbing fixtures and an innovative chilled beam technology as part of a low-energy HVAC system supplying fresh air at the correct temperature to the clinical and lab facilities.
Promoting Wellbeing and Patient Recovery
Highly skilled at sustainable design, our teams never forget that the ultimate aim in healthcare is to create robust environments that promote patient wellbeing first and foremost, as well as to help healthcare providers operate more efficiently.
Natural light, access to fresh air, sunlight and natural materials are all considered conducive to patient recovery. At the Joseph & Rosalie Segal Family Health Centre in Vancouver, Canada, treatment areas with plenty of natural light, access to the outdoors, quiet spaces for reading and meditating, and a rooftop garden all contribute to a bright and welcoming environment for patients with acute mental disorders. Our lighting designs for a new neonatal care unit at Helsingborg Hospital provide a soothing environment in which premature and sick babies can start to thrive and bond with their parents while enabling staff to conduct their observations and treat them safely.
Certification and meeting sustainability targets
We have a long track record of helping healthcare providers achieve their goals regarding LEED, BREEAM, Green Star and other sustainability accreditations. In terms of design for the wellbeing of all hospital users, we are early adopters of Fitwell, the world’s leading certification system that optimises buildings to support health, and increasing numbers of our consultants are certified by the International Well Building Institute.
We manage the process from the earliest design stages, by scoping out the criteria for accreditation like energy, daylight, fresh air or materials, throughout design and construction, and on into operation once the facility is complete. With our extensive design analysis experience, including life cycle analysis and costing, and building modelling using a variety of tools, we help our healthcare clients to meet their goals with the most suitable sustainability solutions.
In Scotland, we supported The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in its sustainability aspirations, which ranged from testing targets for energy, carbon and waste to a requirement to recruit 10% of new entrants to the employment market. We were involved from the outset of the scheme to create a low carbon structure that would create significant cost and energy savings over the whole life-cycle of the hospital, which is considered to be a model of energy and resource efficiency.
Since energy targets frequently form part of the contract in PFI or similar financial models on large scale projects, we also support our clients in monitoring the early years of their facilities’ operation to assess whether targets are being met and advise on adjustments to be made or the resetting of targets as required.
Our Future Ready Program
We have built our reputation on helping our clients in healthcare manage and reduce their environmental impacts and make their facilities resilient for the future.
Future Ready is the flagship of our sustainability program. It aims to give all of our design experts a consistent understanding of what we believe a future world will look like – including climate, society, resources and technology – and challenges them to offer designs ready both for the future and current design code requirements. This applies to our work on healthcare facilities as well as every other part of the built environment. We are the first global firm to develop such a program. Including future trends in our advice to clients is one of the ways in which we create value. We help them plan for the long term while making good business sense.
As an example, we led a climate change adaptation team to generate a ‘climate change adaptation strategy’ for the partial rebuild and extension o the cardiac wing at Treat Ormond Street Hospital in London. With the focus on thermal comfort, construction and water, our team applied available climate data to the building design to give practical, project specific design advice to enhance the long-term value of the facility.