Puyallup Medical Center Blazes A Trail To LEED For Healthcare

October 15, 2013
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Picnic tables, benches, and a winding path around the clinic help to create a park-like environment for arriving patients and visitors. The roof over the entry plaza eases the transition into and out of the clinic and provides a weather shelter for a roof patio on the second floor. Photo: Ed Sozinho.
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The Group Health Puyallup Medical Center, a new 53,000-square-foot, two-story facility in Puyallup, Wash., is the first project in the country to achieve certification under the new LEED for Healthcare rating system (LEED-HC). Recognizing that healthcare facilities tend to use the most materials and create the most waste in terms of everyday building processes, client Group Health Cooperative of Seattle set out to achieve LEED Gold for its new outpatient clinic.

As the design team began reviewing LEED credits to see what areas could be tackled, the U.S. Green Building Council released LEED-HC, so the team opted to go for the healthcare-specific rating and to potentially be the first to achieve it. And while credits under the Healthcare rating are at times more difficult to meet than the typical New Construction, Core and Shell, or Interiors rating systems, they also applied directly to this particular facility in relation to areas of respite for patients and staff, HVAC systems that support healthcare equipment, finish materials that support indoor environmental quality for patients, and a number of daylighting and site access protocols.

Digging in
Because there were no previous projects to reference, working toward LEED-HC required a deep understanding of what the rating was asking for, and how to best approach it and then document it. The healthcare rating is fairly similar to LEED for New Construction (LEED-NC), but it includes a few more prerequisites and a handful of new credits. Being a general outpatient clinic certainly made it easier to address some credits than if the project were a full inpatient emergency hospital, because the project team didn’t have to address the intensive commercial equipment that typically runs in an emergency hospital or the 24-hour building cycles that directly impact energy calculations. But even so, when the project fell short on some credits, the team had to work to make sure it could cover a number of credits in other areas to reach Gold.

For example, one large difference between LEED-HC and LEED-NC is in the area of water conservation: The credit for LEED-HC for water is much more rigorous in terms of the documentation, measurement, and verification required. For the Puyallup project, there was large section of the water conservation piece that couldn’t be addressed in regards to conservation involving cooling towers or food waste. Because the project didn’t have kitchens or food preparation areas, calculations for process water used for food steamers, ovens, ice machines, and dishwashers were disregarded. Also, due to the lack of intensive medical equipment typically found in inpatient hospitals, the project was not able to attain points for minimizing potable water use for medical equipment cooling.


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