It’s Time To Take Another Look at Sustainable Design
In The Center for Health Design’s column in the January/February issue of Healthcare Design, Debra Levin describes The Center’s informal efforts to capture Healthcare Design Expo & Conference attendees’ top issues of interest in 2015. Among the findings, this one caught my attention: the return of sustainable design as a key topic that keeps our industry up at night. It came in at number three; in 2014, sustainability wasn’t even included as a topic to choose from.
I get that. Sustainability and green design used to be all anyone talked about, but that’s fallen off somewhat. That’s partly because many of the movement’s tenets have now become baseline expectations for building design and partly, I’m sure, because there are always sexy new topics that come along and grab more attention. Yet clearly, genuine concern for sustainable design hasn’t gone away, and may be growing. Can we call it a comeback?
What we do have now that we didn’t have a decade ago are lessons coming to light from healthcare facilities that implemented ambitious green initiatives (geothermal heat pumps, energy recovery air handling units)—lessons with dollar signs, in terms of return on investment, attached. Great strides continue to be made in reaching lofty goals, such as achieving net-zero energy use status, as technologies and systems improve, proliferate, and become less expensive to implement. In an age when cost savings, efficiency, and public perception are critical factors for success, perhaps a renewed interest in sustainable issues isn’t so hard to understand.
People like Kim Shinn of TLC Engineering for Architecture (his official firm title is “senior sustainability wizard”) have never stopped beating that drum. During a session at the 2015 HCD Expo & Conference, Shinn shared truly fascinating insight on what might have happened if two already impressive LEED-certified projects had targeted net zero, as well. Some of those lessons are described briefly in our show review feature this month. And don’t miss Senior Editor Anne DiNardo’s excellent piece “Hitting the Mark in Sustainable Design,” which details more bottom-line outcomes from a few of the most high-profile green building efforts in healthcare from the past 10 years.
If sustainability has lost its luster in determining your own design goals lately, and you’ve mostly continued to rely on the same old strategies and patterns, it’s time to take another look. The potential—and the payoff—are coming into focus.