It’s unlikely that many firms will find themselves with a project in remote San Juan County, Washington, but the takeaways from one that did are plenty for anyone taking on a rural healthcare facility.

In the session “Embracing the Rural Hospital Challenge: Peace Island Medical Center,” at the ASHE PDC Summit in Tampa, Florida, Erik Goodfriend, AIA, ACHA, LEED AP, associate principal, Mahlun; and Alan Roachvang, PhD, communications specialist, PeaceHealth, Peace Island Medical Center Steering Committee, spoke to attendees about how they strove to meet the healthcare needs of the island community.

“We feel that these characteristics, these values, can be applied to any rural community,” Goodfriend said.

Only 5,700 people live in the community year-round, but the inner-island healthcare system in place can’t handle the current level of care, nor could its facility be brought up to code. The solution is a 10-bed critical access care center that is expected to open in late 2012. It will include an outpatient center, emergency department, and two operating rooms.

In order to accomplish the task at hand, a health partner with shared goals and perspective had to be found—enter PeaceHealth. Some of the founding principles that next had to be tackled including generating philanthropic support, on-island and off-island expertise, engaged healthcare leadership, and visionary community leadership.

The end goal was to create a facility where the community’s healthcare needs could be met without disrupting the lush natural resources found there.

Recognizing the community’s interests in its environment, Goodfriend said that Mahlun decided to take on the Living Building Challenge, a rigorous sustainability program. And while the project fell short, he explained that going after that goal helped significantly in reducing the project’s environmental impact. The team was able to focus on water and energy rather than get distracted by collecting points, for example, such as with the LEED certification process.

“We felt this was a good match because we were really trying to mitigate the impact on the existing infrastructure,” he said.

In doing so, the firm focused on goals such as achieving net zero energy, becoming carbon neutral, and eliminating the use of harmful materials.