Improving Community Health Through Sustainable Healthcare
Improving the health of the community has long been the priority of all healthcare systems in the United States. The goal of sustainable design is, in essence, the same. When the two intersect, patients, staff, and the community benefit.
How are three healthcare systems making sustainability work? Each told their own story at HKS Green Week, held April 15-19, including:
- Seema Wadhwa, director of sustainability, Inova Health
- Tony Kelly, project director, Shore Health
- Al Neuner, vice president of facilities operation, Geisinger Health System
Wadhwa asked us to reframe the issue from “What impact are we having on our environment?” to “What impact is our environment having on us?” Inova’s “Going Green” initiative focuses on the system’s entire business model—from its operational approach to strategic planning to stakeholder engagement.
Everything from management bonuses to buy-local programs are tied to the overall green goals.
By integrating green into all aspects of the organization, the aim is to improve employee safety (real and perceived) by reducing environmental exposure to toxic materials (drugs, cleaning supplies, building materials).
Also topping this list is the need to reduce energy and waste costs. On a community level, the provider has increased the number of environmentally related partnerships with community organizations.
And, Inova’s success is proof-positive with a cost savings of more than $225,000 annually in reduced waste disposal, 3 million pounds of recycled goods, 5,000 tree seedlings in the local community, and more than $45,000 spent on local produce.
When surveying employees, 99.1 percent noted that sustainability is important to them.
Kelly, with Shore Health, believes sustainability creates healing environments that focus on the patient, providing efficiency and holistic care. It also provides a platform for creating a great place to work that’s technologically advanced.
When designing facilities for Shore Health, Kelly noted a 15 to 16 percent savings in line with hospital occupancy since his facilities have gone green.
From an owner’s perspective, Kelly says, “Patients and staff value daylight and a connection with the exterior. At Shore, creating an environment where patients are comfortable and staff are happy and productive are primary goals.”
Priority one, he notes, is to site the building properly. Specifying the correct amount of insulation and balancing daylight and heat gain/loss is critical when designing the building exterior. Owners also need to ensure that technical aspects of products are adhered to as the building takes shape (for example, commissioning of the energy-consuming systems as well as critical systems, including emergency power and fire alarm/suppression systems). Kelly notes too many buildings do not achieve optimal efficiency because their functionality is not verified.
He adds that he believes the LEED document needs to be simplified, integrating with the BIM execution plan and Lean processes for design and construction.
President Obama recognized Geisinger Health System by saying, “We have to ask why places like the Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania can offer high-quality care at costs well below average. We need to identify the best practices across the country, learn from the success and replicate that success elsewhere.”
Neuner believes that doing things right, including greening his facilities, drives down healthcare costs. Why build green? He says it reduces building operating costs, optimizes life-cycle economic performance of the entire building, improves staff productivity and patient outcomes, and allows Geisinger Health System to serve as a market influencer.
Approximately 39 percent of the healthcare projects currently registered or certified for LEED in Pennsylvania are underway by Geisinger Health, including The Henry Center for Health Research in Danville, Wyoming Valley Critical Care Building in Wilkes-Barre, Gray’s Woods in Patton Township, and the Hospital for Advanced Medicine in Danville.
The healthcare system’s green accomplishments: the main 1.2 million-square-foot Danville location (which is now expanded to 2.4 million square feet) boasts the same utility expense and electrical demand as it did in 1988. The healthcare provider’s annualized utility savings is $7 million.
Their findings: green works. And, it’s improving care for patients and environments for staff, and bettering their communities while improving the bottom line. Their goal is to spread the green word, allowing all healthcare providers to see the benefits of sustainable care.
Roy Gunsolus is principal and director of sustainable healthcare at HKS Inc. He can be reached at email@example.com.