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Hospital Going with Green Roofs


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Hospital Going with Green Roofs

  1. 1. Evidence suggests patients and staff prefer looking out Issue feature: Exteriors over a green roof rather than a black roof.going with green roofs black roof,” said Sandra McCullough, a LEED-accredited professional with Weston Solutions’ GreenGrid Green Roofs. “There is much data suggest- ing that green buildings improve the health and productivity of workers.” Can hospital systems save lives? Acting on this evidence, Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago recently installed a green roof on its new Prentice By Dawn Shoemaker Women’s Hospital, and Beloit Hospital has recently installed a green roof that can be seen by patients and employees. Green roofs have gained in popularity in recent years and are more commonly considered for healthcare facility designs, yet they The Cost of Medical Mistakes remain far from widespread. Many building professionals believe In 1999, the Institute of Medicine released the medical construction industry would be wise to take notice and the landmark report “To Err Is Human,” learn more about the benefits of green roofs and the impact they which estimated that medical mistakes are costing the United States between could have on their businesses. $17 billion and $29 billion annually. To remedy the situation, the report em- Benefits of Green Roofs phasized a “systems” approach to facili- Studies indicate green roofs achieve significant results. For ties, including the way they are designed, example, the National Research Council Canada reports green built and maintained. The goal of the report courtesy of Weston Solutions, Inc. GreenGrid Green Roofs roofs, compared to a conventional blacktop flat roof, can sig- was to look at the medical setting holisti- nificantly reduce average daily cooling requirements on facili- cally and consider how entire hospital sys- ties that are a few stories or less. Consequently, such a facility tems could be changed to make facilities can reduce the size of its air-conditioning equipment and, in healthier and reduce the number of deaths. so doing, can lower its construction and operating costs. One significant systems change is to Storm-water runoff is reduced by as much as 95 percent after adopt sustainable technology in general. a one-inch rainfall when a green roof is installed. The dramatic “Hospitals are dangerous places difference can prevent the need for more elaborate — and costly because of some systems, and systems — roof drainage and retention systems while simultaneously are a design problem,” said Derek Parker, reducing the impact on local drainage and sewer systems. co-founder of the Center for Health Also, green roofs soften noise on the floor directly beneath Design, a nonprofit think tank, and a the roof. Studies indicate exterior noise is reduced by as much director at Anshen + Allen Architects, a as 10 percent when a green roof is installed. Studies have San Francisco, Calif.-based healthcare also shown the views of nature benefit patients and staff. design firm. Parker also said hospitals “We are finding anecdotal evidence suggesting that pa- must look beyond building fancy entries tients much prefer looking out over a green roof rather than a or installing decorative carpets, furni- 46    Medical Construction & Design • March/April 2007
  2. 2. Storm-water runoff is reduced by as much as 95 percent after a one-inch rainfall when a green roof is installed. The dramatic difference can prevent the need for more elaborate — and costly — roof drainage and retention systems. green cleaning chemicals to low-PVC flooring. Kaiser is also among those companies that sees the benefits of green roofs. Different Types of Green Roofs “Green roofs are not rooftop gardens or healing gardens with trees and shrubs, as are found on some medical facilities,” ex- plained McCullough. “Instead, Kaiser [Permanente] and otherture and other aesthetic elements, and facilities are installing extensive green roofs, which involves theawaken to the possibility that new hospi- placement of very low-maintenance, ground-cover plants suchtal systems and design can save lives. as sedum, grasses and other smaller species. The plants and Many medical facilities are reluctant growth media [soil] are placed directly on top of the existing roof.”to experiment with new, untested design According to McCullough, some green roofing systemschanges or facility operations because are built directly on the roof, requiring several laborers to haulof the possible added costs involved. Ac- plants, soil and other components to the rooftop, where thecording to financial consultants Kaufman, green roof is then installed. Another system uses modules, whichHall & Associates, “More than half of are planted off-site by a professional landscaping company.U.S. hospitals and healthcare systems “Because so many hospitals are concerned about costs and mightstruggle financially in the face of com- be unwilling to take a ‘risk’ by installing a green roof, a modular systempetitive pressure from physician-owned might be a good option,” said McCullough. “Modular systems tend tofacilities, increasing uncertainty about be less expensive than a green roof built on top of an existing roof.”the future of government-based pay- Studies from Europe, where green roofs have been com-ments and the financial strain of high mon since the 1970s, indicate the life expectancy of an existingdebt loads, infrastructure improvements roof under a green roof can double. This is because membranesand technology-related expenditures.” under green roofs are not subject to the vast swings in tempera- Parker believes any added costs ture of typical roofs and are protected from ultraviolet light. Thisin improved hospital systems or de- can prove to be a significant savings for a medical facility.sign will pay off, not only in fewer pa-tient deaths and staff errors, but in Green for Green’s Sake?reduced operating costs as well. “No hospital should go green just for green’s sake,” said Mc- “It costs a lot of money to build [and Cullough. “They should always evaluate [implementing greenrun] a poor hospital and only a little more systems], including green roofs, and if they determine going greento build a better hospital,” he said. can improve patient health, safety or outcomes, or help reduce building operating costs, then it should be strongly considered.”Kaiser Goes Green McCullough said incorporating green components into aKaiser Permanente is a good example of medical facility should always be viewed as a system in anda hospital facility taking a systems ap- of itself, which is usually only as strong as its weakest link.proach to building design and operation. “If a green roof is installed but an antiquated or poorlyWith more than 63 million square feet functioning HVAC system is in place, many of the en-of medical space at various locations ergy-saving benefits of the green roof may be lost,” shearound the U.S., Kaiser believes it can said. “It’s the big picture that is important. The goal mustcorrelate patient outcomes with design, be that all hospital systems and design features work to-and is doing this by taking into consid- gether to help improve the overall health of the facility.” neration everything from the direction apatient’s room faces, to the products used Dawn Shoemaker is a researcher and writer for the building and professionalto clean the room. It is also incorporat- cleaning industry working with AlturaSolutions Communications. She may being a variety of green measures, from reached at (773) March/April 2007 • Medical Construction & Design    47