Sustainable Hospitals ~ Consider Going Green?

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Going green” are two words politicians, media and activists around the world are heard articulating on a daily basis. However, sustainability is not a new emerging trend but a philosophy, that has been present for over 20 years. In 1987, the United-Nations was defining sustainable development as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Nowadays in the healthcare industry, landscaped green hospitals are flourishing offering patients a better, and cleaner healthcare environment.

A hospitals’ energy use is considerable. In terms of numbers, the U.S. healthcare sector’s total carbon footprint is approximately 546 million metric tons of CO2, exceeding by far any other country’s comparative carbon footprint. According to the U.S Department of Energy, just 20 percent reduction in this carbon footprint can save billions of dollars.

“The healthcare industry is by far one of the more important sectors that can benefit from the practice of green building design and construction,” said U.S. Green Building Council President, CEO and Founding Chair, Rick Fedrizzi.

GOING GREEN

Becoming a sustainable hospital involves many aspects such as green building design, energy efficiency plans, alternative energy generation, transportation, food and management of waste and water according to Syria’s Managing Director – Health Insurance, Ministry of Health, Hisham Diwani.

Green hospitals buildings are conceptualized to interact with natural elements and designed by specialized architects focusing on natural lights, open space and the use of organic materials.
University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Hamburg, Germany, Mathias Goyen articulated that “the comfort and warm colors used in a hospital setting directly impacts the creation of a non hospital atmosphere.”

The use of energy represents a huge share and percentage in the implementation of a green hospital program. To regulate energy usage, the focus in generally based on the regulation of CO2 and mercury. Doing so, green hospitals are mainly establishing an energy management system that re-evaluates the energy waste to adapt to the hospital’s needs. That can go from using led lamps, powering down the computers to re-dimensioning tubes, pumps and valves for consumption oriented heating, which is what the University Medical Center Hamburg Eppendorf does.

“Adjusting PC monitor settings to automatically power down activity will maximize the energy used during the product lifetime to then recycle it,” Goyen said.

On the issue of transportation, this is also an important variant when it comes to greening. There’s no doubt in Europe that the use of public transportation or encouragement of biking as a mode of transport is easier than in the U.S or in the Middle East. However, hospital vehicles can also use alternative energy such as electricity or hydrogen.

Healthy food for patients and staff in addition to consumption of local, organic and sustainable food is expected in a green hospital according to Diwani.

Management of water resources and the management of waste can be illustrated by recycling, reusing, conserving and composting programs.

PATIENTS, STAFF AND LOCAL POPULATIONS

“Patients in green hospitals have greater emotional well-being, require less pain medications and other drugs and have shorter hospital stays,” Fedrizzi as noted in the California for Green solutions website said.

The medical staff is then also working in a healthier environment on a daily basis. Usually exposed to stress, long working hours and diseases, working in a green building reduces absenteeism and increases productivity, according to a 2009 University of San Diego and CB Richard Ellis study.

Moreover, by buying local products such as food, hospital and building materials to decrease CO2 emissions from transportation services; green hospitals privileged national market and local suppliers.

STANDARDS AND CERTIFICATION

The U.S Green Building Council’s website stated that the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system is a voluntary, consensus-based standard used to support and certify successful green building design, construction and operations. LEED provides a nationally recognized certification system to promote integrated, whole-building design practices in the building industry. According to their commitment to going green, hospitals can reach different levels of certification – platinum, silver and gold. Only four hospitals have attained the gold level so far.

SUSTAINABILITY AROUND THE GLOBE

University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany

University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf works on hospital eco-footprint by providing an eco-friendly and sustainable environment to patients and staff. Among others, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf does not use air conditioning but installs large windows in a patients’ room which can be opened widely if desired. The hospital also has been awarded the 2009 Caterer of the Year award. On alternative energy uses, Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf is emission free inside and outside. The Medical Center uses H2 energy storage and electric motors for the property according to Goyen.

King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

This public government funded hospital, King Faisial Specialist Hospital, situated in a desert climate is focusing mainly on water and air resources.

“All waste water is being recycled and used in the chilled water plant,” RTLK Vice President Stanly Chiu said. “All air handlers have high performance sand filters which are combined with energy recovery.”

Baptist Health South Florida

The largest non-for-profit organization in the region, Baptist Health South Florida considers itself committed to green with respect to LEED’s criteria. Controlling waste, repurposing and recycling also are a few key components Baptist Health South Florida has implemented according to Assistant Vice President, Eric Wenke of Baptist Health South Florida.

Hospital Clinica Biblica, Costa-Rica

“Clinica Biblica is pioneering sustainable health care in Costa-Rica,” Hospital Clinica Biblica Assistant Director Alekcey Murillo-Alfaro said. By offering a range of sustainable services Clinica Biblica received the LEED certification. Clinica Biblica uses power-saving technology, compostable utensils, integrated water management and responsible water disposal. Also, carbon mitigation has been initiated.

COST CONSIDERATIONS AND PROJECTIONS

Being sustainable is not a matter of cost according to NHS Sustainable Unit Operational Director, Sonia Roschnik.

“It’s not a question of whether a hospital can afford to be more environmentally responsible, but whether it can afford not to be environmentally responsible,” she said. “For example, reducing drugs wastage could save the NHS £89 Million ($137,337,000) a year.”

According to Kahn, who is Chief Strategy Officer of Clift Montague, sustainable investments cost money but in the long term it will cost even more not being sustainable.

Moreover, green buildings can improve returns on investment by six to seven percent according to the Bulding Owners and Managers Association.

“Many green healthcare programs stall because organizations reach for a large, expensive initiative before they are culturally ready,” Wenke said. “Often they would be better off starting with smaller initiatives to show immediate results and build on success.”

Going green, are two words which can provide benefits to medical staff, patients and the environment. Currently, on the healthcare landscape, being a sustainable hospital improves your hospital’s image, reputation and wallet as well.

About the Author

Anne-Line Crochet is Communications Intern for Medical Tourism Association. With a Masters degree in political science, a Minor in journalism, Anne-Line provides professional expertise to our public relations and editorial functions. Previously a staff writer for French publications Fragil and Ouest-France, she is fluent in English and French; and conversant in Spanish and Russian languages. Anne-Line writes for MTA’s Medical Tourism Magazine and Health Tourism Magazine. She can be reach at AnneLine@medicaltourismassociation.com