South Florida Hospital News
Wednesday May 22, 2019
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March 2009 - Volume 5 - Issue 9

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Leadership in Healthier Buildings

It takes forward-thinking leadership to recognize and implement the environmental and human benefits of LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and to require that the LEED® standard be incorporated into healthcare systems and medical buildings. LEED® principles significantly impact the health, safety and welfare of patients and staff within a building. There is no other public facility where the incorporation of LEED® principles has a more direct impact upon people’s health.

Currently, the public perception of LEED® is that it promotes environmental protection, focusing on being more energy responsible, maximizing the use of renewable resources, recycling, and minimizing waste. However, key principles of LEED® also speak directly to the health of the occupants within a building through the improvement of the environmental quality within the building. Clean breathing is critical to those patients with compromised immune system diseases, diseases of the lungs, and a wide variety of other afflictions which render a patient vulnerable to medical stresses caused by environmental remnants of construction projects. Why would we select materials or allow methods of construction that might cause an allergic reaction, or trigger an asthma attack, and not want to provide a healthier and cleaner environment throughout the design and construction stages of a project?

In a hospital which is a 24/7 facility, environmental quality is a critical consideration. Buildings are constructed more tightly than ever before in an effort to achieve energy conservation. Therefore, contaminants within them are then difficult to remove and are continuously being re-circulated. The "new building" ("new car") smell of a recently constructed project is actually the off-gassing of chemicals from the finishes and furniture within the building and has a potentially significant and harmful impact upon susceptible patients’ health within the building.

Not only do LEED® practices avoid the selection of such products, but they also include a construction environmental quality management plan prior to occupancy which protects elements in place from becoming contaminated from ongoing construction. It is highly inadvisable to install carpets too soon only to have drywall dust, paint, ceiling tile dust, or workman dirt contaminate them before the first occupant enters the building. Careful selection of materials: adhesives, sealants, and the selection of "green" ceilings and flooring will minimize the off-gassing or chemical odors in the air. For example, low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds - odorless) paints will allow the occupants within the building to breathe clean air from the first day of occupancy.

In addition to the above good practices, studies have also demonstrated that day-lighting for patients and staff has positive clinical impacts and positive staff retention statistics. LEED® environmental quality standards identify specific comfort and control goals for all occupant spaces in order to achieve a better quality environment. Even acoustics, sound control, and building vibration standards are components of the analysis of medical spaces that are identified in the "Green Guide for Healthcare" whose criteria will soon be incorporated into LEED®.

For more information, contact Charles A. Michelson, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, Saltz Michelson Architects, at (954) 266-2700 or cmichelson@saltzmichelson.com or visit www.saltzmichelson.com.
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