Expanding and strengthening Community Health Centers reduces health disparities, increases access to high quality, routine care, and boosts local economies. Health Centers are strategic public investments that generate increasingly sustainable communities by providing care (National Association of Community Health Centers 2009).

For 15 years, the Arlington Free Clinic (AFC), a nonprofit, community-based healthcare provider, has served the low-income, uninsured residents of Arlington County, Virginia, but never in a space of their own. In 2008, the prospect of a permanent home developed, and the Clinic seized the opportunity to encourage their presence in the community through a new physical space, tailor-made.

The integrated team of Perkins+Will, Integral Group, Bognet Construction and Washington Workplace, and AFC took the notion of sustainable care beyond operations and into the built environment, mandating the new space obtain LEED Certification.

From project kick-off in April 2008 to the grand opening in June 2009, the team continually pushed to reach more sustainable goals presented in LEED for Commercial Interiors.

Once all efforts of the 14-month process were documented, tallied, calculated and complete, the team reduced water use by 31.58%, recycled 85.51% of all construction waste, purchased 79.86% of all construction materials, seating and systems furniture from within 500-miles, and implemented a Sustainable Building Education Outreach and Signage Program among many other achievements.

While awaiting the outcome of the LEED submission the team shared their journey and outcomes with the public through submissions, articles and presentations. AFC was recognized by the industry and community through three awards based on sustainability in the design and construction: First Place in the Design Category from the Washington Business Journal's Green Business Practices Awards in October 2009, Presidential Citation for Sustainable Design from the AIA Washington Chapter in October 2009 and an IIDA Mid-Atlantic Chapter Special Merit Award in the Healthcare Category, April 2010.

On April 29th of this year, the final verdict from the Green Building Certification Institute arrived: LEED GOLD, far exceeding the original goal of Certified two years prior, and very welcome. Arlington Free Clinic is the first medical facility in Arlington County to achieve LEED GOLD certification AND the first free clinic in Virginia and the nation to achieve LEED GOLD certification.

In September, the LEED plaque was unveiled at the Clinic during an intimate ceremony. Another assurance of health in a facility that heals and sustains a deserving community.