The nation’s health care system is anticipating a hospital construction boom worth $200 billion over the next decade. At this pivotal moment, hospital leaders are asking, what is the role of hospitals in the 21st century in improving patient and community health? Evidence suggests that when hospitals adopt green building and design approaches that minimize ecological harm, patient healing and staff satisfaction increases, and hospitals serve as leading environmental stewards in their communities.
On average, Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, and too often in buildings where the construction materials, cleaning solutions, machinery and other products emit toxic chemicals. Over time, these substances can concentrate in the human body and contribute to poorer health and disease outcomes.
In 2002, the publication of the Green Guide for Health Care provided the health care industry with a best-practices guide for healthy and sustainable building design, construction, and operations. Since then, more than 40 million square feet of green health care facilities have been built. Hundreds of hospitals in the U.S. are leading the greening movement within health care by reducing waste, seeking out locally grown, organic foods, and using less toxic, more sustainable building materials. Their considerable buying power is driving the market to respond with quality, affordable and environmentally responsible products.
The Center for Health Design , in partnership with Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) decided to investigate this link even further by exploring the environmental impact hospitals have on their patients, staff and communities. The result was a conference titled, “Designing the 21st Century Hospital: Environmental Leadership for Healthier Patients and Facilities,” and the publication of six white papers.
Two of the papers describe the current state of hospitals within the healthcare industry:
* “First Do No Harm,” by Gary Cohen of HCWH.
* “Toward an Ecological View of Health: An Imperative for the Twenty-First Century,” by Ted Schettler of the Science and Environment Health Network.
Three papers provide solutions that hospitals have undertaken with proven results:
* “Redefining Healthy Food: An Ecological Health Approach to Food Production, Distribution, and Procurement,” by Jamie Harvie of HCWH.
* “Creating Safe and Health Spaces: Selecting Materials that Support Healing,” by Mark Rossi of Clean Product Action and Tom Lent of Healthy Building Network.
* “Preventative Medicine for the Environment: Developing and Implementing Environmental Programs that Work,” by Laura Brannen of Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E).
The final paper features interviews with healthcare leaders that spearheaded their hospital’s efforts to go green. These trailblazers describe their decisions, the barriers they faced and how their efforts have been successful:
* “Values Drive Design and Construction: Enriching Community Benefits through Green Hospitals,” by Robin Guenther, FAIA, Gail Vittori, and Cynthia Atwood.
All six white papers are available for download as one document. Download PDF.