Bracing for natural disasters through hospital design

As more hospitals adopt environmentally friendly design, new construction projects keep an eye on both environmental impact, and resilience to climate change and the extreme weather, including tornadoes and hurricanes, that comes with it, according to a Forbes article.

Many experts, including Al Sommer, M.D., dean emeritus of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, have called on the healthcare industry to prepare for the impact of climate change and climate-related natural disasters, as FierceHealthcare reported. 

"The challenge is like every challenge in public health," Sommer said in an interview with Kaiser Health News. "The average CEO is worried about making quarterly profits, so they don't care. Getting people to be concerned about the future is tough."

St. Louis-based McCarthy Building Corp. is part of two hospital reconstruction projects that accepted the challenge, according to Forbes--one in New Orleans and the other in Joplin, Missouri.

In New Orleans, a $900 million reconstruction of the Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility is underway. Traditional construction plans are tipped on their head, with services such as the emergency room at least 20 feet above base flood level and features traditionally located in basements, such as kitchens, electrical components and emergency generators on upper floors, according to the article.

In Missouri, McCarthy is working on the 875,000-square foot Mercy Hospital Joplin to replace the facility destroyed in a tornado two years ago. Like the New Orleans facility, it incorporates design features in response to the disaster that led to the original closure, such as "safe rooms" deep in the core of the building and three different types of glass with different levels of protection against wind, Forbes reports.

McCarthy is not the only entity working to protect hospitals and other healthcare facilities from potential disaster. Boston's Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital climate-proofed the facility for about a half percent of building costs by taking steps such as raising the ground floor and storing vital electrical equipment on the roof rather than in the basement.

After Hurricane Sandy, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg developed a plan to certify the city's hospitals for extreme weather preparedness, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the Forbes article