$28.5M Update Earns Whiteman AFB Clinic LEED v4 Certification

The Air Force collaborated with architects at Hoefer Wysocki to transform the clinic into one of the first facilities to earn USGBC’s most advanced sustainability rating.

Home of the 509th Bomb Wing and the world’s only B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber unit, Whiteman Air Force Base, in Knob Noster, MO recently completed a $28.5 million update of the base’s existing medical facility. Originally built in 1979, the clinic is the base’s primary healthcare center. It’s operated by the 509th Medical Group and annually serves more than 12,000 patients.

Whiteman Air Force Base clinic
The Family Health & Pediatrics registration area at the Whiteman AFB clinic showcases the more reflective materials used to brighten the space while simultaneously using less lighting. (Image credit: Hoefer Wysocki)

Maintaining clinic operations during the renovation was essential. Thanks to careful planning, construction staging, and installation of a Temporary Phasing Facility (TPF), all departments were able to remain operational during construction.

The Whiteman AFB clinic team also included sustainability goals when planning the project. As a result, the facility received LEED v4 certification, the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) most advanced sustainability rating, making it one of the first facilities to earn this designation.

Key aspects of the Whiteman AFB LEED v4 certification include:

  • Significant reduction in water usage

    Whiteman Air Force Base
    The Operational Medicine waiting area features low-emitting finishes and sustainable components such as FSC wood as well as regional and recycled materials. (Image credit: Hoefer Wysocki)
  • Diversion of landfill waste during construction
  • Material selection for finishes and furnishings

We talked to Ashley Eusey, P.E., LEED AP, GGP, Sustainability Specialist, at Hoefer Wysocki to learn more about how the facility reached its LEED v4 goals, lessons learned from the project, and factors facility managers should consider when incorporating sustainability goals into their own renovation projects.

Facility Executive: How has this facility improved operations?

Ashley Eusey: As designed, the project provided a 27% energy cost savings and a water use reduction of more than 31%. All of the systems on the project were commissioned and the team provided a measurement and verification plan to ensure they were actually performing as designed. Through the LEED process, Saint Luke’s also developed a plan alongside the design team for ongoing sustainable purchasing, integrated pest management, and green cleaning practices for future building maintenance. These practices will work in conjunction to continually improve the indoor environment quality and sustainable materials selection (62.55% of all materials on the project were sustainably sourced) for years to come.

LEED v4 Certification
An exam room features modular furniture and casework which allows the space to be more flexible and accommodate changing and future uses. (Image credit: Hoefer Wysocki)

FE: What is the biggest factor for a facility manager to consider when incorporating sustainability?

AE: Measurement and verification. No facility manager wants a building to simply be designed sustainably; they want it to actually operate that way for decades. The two strategies I suggest for this are commissioning and metering. Commissioning is an investment worth making. Getting a commissioning agent involved early to review design documents and then to review the actual built condition is essentially buying insurance for your building. By doing so, you are verifying that the design you purchased is working as intended. Another investment worth making is additional metering and a system for analyzing the data. These systems provide notification of a problem with your building’s operations well before you get that astronomical utility bill. Not only will this save money, but metering systems can help determine the beginnings of mechanical fatigue before the system completely breaks and causes more damage. To double your value, make sure your commissioning agent also commissions your metering system.

FE: How can facility managers work with sustainability experts to achieve maximum results?

AE: For starters, the facility managers need to be brought to the table early in design. This allows the design team to better understand the goals and overall vision for the facility’s future. From this discussion, priorities for sustainable design can be determined and potential strategies brainstormed. This conversation should continue throughout design and construction, with decisions continually being measured by the overall facility goals and vision. Finally, at the close of construction, commissioning and facility maintenance training is key. A sustainable feature improperly managed or implemented is no longer sustainable. Building owners need to be properly educated in the best practices of operating the systems before occupancy.

FE: What factors drive property owners and facility managers to pursue sustainability certification?

AE: A sustainable building has greater overall value to any client. Studies have shown that sustainable buildings provide better occupant satisfaction, decrease sick days and turnover, as they provide a more positive, healing environment. Sustainable buildings also tend to have lower operating costs due to the water and energy use reductions provided. In healthcare especially, an industry that uses more energy and water for the daily processes required in patient care, any reduction in resource utilization nets facility operations savings. Finally, sustainable buildings have a positive effect on the community they serve in regards to connectivity and the use of regional businesses and materials. Healthcare is often seen as a pillar of any community, so this aspect of sustainability is especially important to that industry.

Getting sustainability certified by a third party is a way to verify the claims of the design team and give credibility to the project. Like commissioning, certification gives peace of mind to the building owner that they have actually received what they paid for. Certified buildings also give added value to the community. They inspire others to follow in the building owner’s footsteps and push the industry towards the future.

FE: What specific considerations do healthcare facility managers need to consider compared to facility managers of other building types?

AE: As mentioned above, water and energy use should always be a topic of conversation in regards to healthcare. There is a balance to be kept between quality of performance and resource reduction that needs to happen early and often. Another important balance in healthcare design is material selection. Although the industry is steadily phasing out many harmful chemicals, certain materials and processes are required for patient care that are still universally used. Having an informed conversation with the team to discuss what can and cannot be substituted is important in creating a healthy, yet fully functioning indoor environment. Finally, health codes and infection control measures don’t allow for certain sustainable strategies like live vegetation to be incorporated into the design so other avenues may need to be explored to generate the same benefit.