Green design pads bottom line: Efficiency in ASC buildings

For surgery centers, the design-build conversation is often one of efficiency. However, environmental impact is another increasingly popular discussion for those constructing or retrofitting a center. Not only are optimal use of water, light and space better for the environment, but efficient use of resources often coincides with efficient design, a more judicious use of resources and streamlined workflow, all of which are major goals for many ASCs.

Ortho NorthEast’s SurgeryONE, a freestanding surgery center based in Fort Wayne, Ind., is one of the first ASCs in the region to become Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design "silver" certified. LEED silver is the third of four sustainability ratings through the U.S. Green Building Council, which range from "certified" to "platinum."

The building was designed by MKM architecture + design, and firm partner Ron Menze worked closely on the project. "Healthcare facilities require large amounts of energy to care for patients," says Mr. Menze. "For example, there are stringent air circulation standards for infection control, and operating rooms are very cold. To meet the LEED standards, we did a lot of behind-the-scenes work."

For SurgeryONE, this behind-the-scenes work involved combating the two biggest culprits in resource overuse in healthcare: temperature regulation and water use. This meant altering the typical design for the shell of the building — including precise strategies for insulation, airflow direction and window glazing — as well as creating recycled water collectors to collect condensation from temperature control units. "With the A/C on year-round [in the OR], there's a lot of water put off into condensate drains. We used and recycled that water," he says. “Medical facilities should be educated to know water recycling can be done safely and effectively in LEED buildings."

Even with the extra features, the economics of the building work well. According to Mr. Menze, healthcare design usually focuses on short-term return on investment. However, building sustainably requires long-term vision. The LEED building will pay for itself in between four and five years — better than an energy efficient building average of six or seven years. Over time, it will save a substantial amount of money as compared to a standard building.

For patients and staff, the most obvious differences in the building are related to light-use. Daylight in the lobby and surgery corridor, unusual features for a healthcare building, reduce reliance on electric lighting and make the inside experience a more natural one. Indeed, incorporation of daylight into surgical areas is also becoming a popular way to increase the well-being of staff and physicians who may spend a large percentage of their days away from natural light.

With patients, staff, surgeons and center owners accounted for, the benefits of green design are evident to all stakeholders, according to Mr. Menze. Indeed, in addition to efficiency in design and reductions in building expense over time, green design has the additional benefit of fitting in nicely with the growing idea that healthcare facilities should demonstrate commitments to health in a more holistic sense. "[Energy efficient facilities] demonstrate to patients that the provider is concerned about their whole health and well-being. That's incredibly important in the competitive healthcare market," says Mr. Menze.

More articles:
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