Green hospitals increasingly vital for population health, cost control

Environmentally friendly hospital redesigns, once considered just a bonus, are increasingly necessary within the healthcare industry, according to Becker's Hospital Review.

There are two primary approaches to hospital sustainability, Deb Sheehan, executive director of the health practice for CannonDesign, told Becker's. The first focuses on aligning sustainability and the hospital's mission. "We've seen a lot of larger health systems with healthy community initiatives in place really starting to say, 'If we're going to make good on our mission, we must be committed to investing in healthy buildings that steward the protection of the environment,'" she said. This approach, she said, is at its core a system-wide application of the principle of "First, do no harm."

The second approach is financially focused, according to Sheehan. Since many providers operate 24/7, energy is one of their biggest expenses, and green initiatives can be a major driver of savings. Energy utilities are a fixed cost, so hospitals will take any opportunity available to reduce those expenses, John Ebers, associate director of facility engagement and the energy program at Practice Greenhealth, a healthcare-focused solutions provider, previously told FierceHealthcare.

Kaiser Permanente has taken a lead in developing green hospital initiatives, according to the article, as it announced plans in February to buy enough renewable energy to offset half of the electiricity it currently uses in California. This was the latest prong of a broader sustainability effort the Oakland-based system announced in 2012. Under the energy-purchasing plan, Kaiser will buy the green energy output from 110 megawatts of solar energy, 43 megawatts of wind power and 70 megawatts of onsite solar production, according to Becker's.

However, these redesigns don't necessarily have to be drastic touches such as solar panels or wind turbines, according to the article. Many green remodels have been outwardly invisible but made a major difference. For example, Ebers and Sheehan suggest hospitals explore features such as automation controls, retrofitted lighting and occupancy sensors. In some cases, Ebers said, the greenest option can be deciding against unnecessary construction altogether.

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