More Hospitals Building ‘Eco-Friendly’ Facilities
Hospitals are beginning to build "more efficient, eco-friendly facilities with 'sustainable' design features" as the industry "embarks on a $200 billion construction program over the next decade to replace or rebuild decaying facilities and meet growing demand from aging baby boomers," the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the Journal, hospitals have "inadvertently contribut[ed] to illness and pollution by exposing staff and patients to a witch's brew of toxins" -- including building materials that release chemicals into the air, medical waste, hospital supplies and cleaning products. However, "that is starting to change" amid increasing pressure from local and state governments, health care architects and designers, and "environmentally conscious donors," the Journal reports.
About a dozen groups including Kaiser Permanente and Dartmouth- Hitchcock Medical Center began constructing "green" hospitals several years ago, and other groups are now following their lead.
According to the not-for-profit Center for Health Design, which co-sponsored a conference in New Jersey last week to promote green design, more than 180 healthcare facilities have been built or are being designed following guidelines such as those set by the Green Guide for Health Care, which is based on a certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Innovations include solar panels, permeable pavement material to filter chemicals from rainwater runoff, water conserving toilets, rubber floors, eco-friendly systems for disposing of medical waste, latex-free examination gloves, and cleaners without harsh chemicals and recyclable solvents.
Gary Cohen, executive director of the Environmental Health Fund, said that although innovations initially cost more, they can reduce operating costs over time (Landro, Wall Street Journal, 10/4).