Hospitals’ operating budgets are spent primarily on maintenance, energy and staffing, with staffing having the biggest impact. As sustainable thinking has evolved, we’re seeing a new focus from our clients: Can we increase our staffs’ productivity, wellness and fulfillment by designing and operating more sustainable facilities?
The answer is yes, as the Seton Family of Hospitals found out a few years ago. By surveying employees at three of its hospitals – all of which were ground-up facilities built within a two-and-a-half-year period and using the same engineer, WSP – Seton saw real results of the varying design philosophies employed at the three facilities: Dell Children’s Medical Center, Seton Williamson and Seton Hayes.
Dell Children’s, located in Austin, Texas, had an eye towards achieving high sustainability goals from the outset and included a great deal of analysis to reach these targets and provide a model for future health care facilities. Implemented measures included extensive daylighting, heat recovery, steam water generation and natural habitat plantings. A later addition improved sustainability features with solar photovoltaics, water reduction measures saving 1.3 million gallons, CO2 monitoring and lighting controls for 90% of the occupants. Dell Children’s was the U.S. Green Building Council’s first certified LEED Platinum building of its kind.
Seton Williamson and Seton Hayes, while still highly focused on achieving high levels of energy efficiency, had a different focus. Situated in rural areas outside of Austin that sorely needed health care services to accommodate growing populations, both hospitals were designed and built in less than two years. The accelerated time frame limited the ability to conduct some of the advanced sustainable analysis that informs high performance designs like those seen at Dell Children’s.
So, while all three hospitals are models for energy efficiency – each operates with an energy density below 200kbtu (kilo British thermal units), saving Seton around $350 million a year compared to typical hospitals, which operate around 225kbtu – Dell Children’s had more focus on advanced sustainable design than the others.