Name: Gail Vittori

Award: 20 Making A Difference, 2007

Then and now: Co-director, Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems (Austin, Texas)

What she’s been up to: Co-coordinator of the Green Guide for Health Care and served as the founding chair of the LEED for Healthcare core committee through 2009; co-wrote Sustainable Healthcare Architecture in 2008 with colleague Robin Guenther, and the 2nd edition in 2013; worked on Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas (Austin, Texas) as the principal LEED/sustainability consultant for the base building and on its W.H. and Elaine McCarty South Bed Tower, with the base building recognized as the first LEED Platinum-certified hospital in the world and the bed tower as the first LEED for Healthcare Platinum-certified hospital in the world; and helped launch the health product declaration standard as vice-chair of the Health Product Declaration Collaborative Board of Directors. She also serves as the 2015 chair of Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI).

What’s one thing about the evolving healthcare design landscape that excites you?

In the U.S., there’s a growing recognition that through their life cycle healthcare buildings have measurable and substantive consequence within the broader objective of health promotion and prevention. What happens outside the walls, as a result of energy supply, materials selection, and physical location, to name a few examples, can dramatically influence broad public health outcomes. Similarly, what happens inside the walls is increasingly recognized as contributing to measurable patient outcomes and staff performance. Though with the positive evolution there’s a troubling reality that the demand for healthcare continues to rise, suggesting the need for a broader societal imperative on strategies that promote health and prevention rather than treatment of sickness and disease. A focus on upstream solutions that democratize the benefits is key.

What’s on your radar screen in 2016?

Current projects include the new Dell Seton Medical Center of Central Texas, which is due to open in 2017, and the Central Health Brackenridge Campus master plan, which is an opportunity to align Central Health’s mission to promote Travis County, Texas, as a model healthy community with a full-scale demonstration of healthy, urban mixed-use development and performance-based sustainability and health metrics. Each represents what I believe is the extraordinary importance of creating tangible examples as catalysts for innovation and transformation.

What she said in 2008: For many projects, including healthcare, certification has been shown to hold tremendous value. Yes, it can represent an expense but, from the marketplace point of view, it pays off significantly. Certification verifies that the LEED process was used to achieve important goals, and this has an established return on investment: higher resale value, listing as a top-tier property, more efficient and cost-effective energy use—these add up to real economic value. I think the case for this has been made very well.

What she says in 2015: The now well-researched benefits associated with LEED certification generally carry over to the healthcare sector. And while there has been a noticeable shift in practice in the design of healthcare facilities, the uptake of LEED for Healthcare has been slow--only 247 registered and certified LEED for Healthcare projects as of this writing. There’s enormous opportunity in the marketplace to better quantify the measurable health and well-being performance benefits that result from formal LEED certification and to establish certification (through verification) as the most effective strategy to achieve the desired human health, environmental, social, and economic benefits and to integrate continuous improvement in our everyday work.

For more Q+As with past recipients of Healthcare Design’s professional awards programs, check out "Master Class."