Parkin Blog

Sustainable Design in Healthcare Renovations

By Brent Whiteley, Vice President, Parkin Architects Limited

There has been much interest in showcasing the sustainable design features that are incorporated into the development of the latest healthcare facilities. But what about the vast stock of existing hospitals that remains?

Re-adapting an existing facility in many ways represents the greenest solution in terms of reducing carbon footprint by maintaining core buildings and upgrading services and materials as part of the ongoing redevelopment cycle. There are a number of opportunities for older facilities to benefit from sustainable design initiatives, although this requires a careful evaluation of the existing facility and appropriate design solutions.

Design Challenges

Hospitals are one of the most energy-intensive buildings, in terms of electricity and water usage. After all, these facilities operate 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. This makes it essential for sustainable designs in hospital settings to reach their full potential in terms of enhanced environmental and economic performance.

However, there are a number of obstacles architects must overcome when looking to implement green building strategies into a renovation project. For example, infection control concerns can pose restrictions on the use of recycled grey water for flushing toilets, as well as irrigation and/or certain types of heat recovery systems. Many older facilities also have low floor-to-floor heights, which can present significant obstacles when it comes to accommodating new infrastructure systems. Not to mention, the age of many whole building systems – including electrical and plumbing – can create substantial difficulties when it comes to determining how a selected departmental renovation can be completed, without leading to larger building-wide upgrades.

Sustainable Opportunities

While the challenges are certainly widespread, there are a number of solutions that can be put in place to ensure the healthcare design performance is consistently realized. Here are some sustainable design elements to be considered:

1. Introduce finishes that offer the combined advantage of reduced VOCs and less intensive cleaning programs, such as linoleum and rubber flooring. These finishes don’t require stripping or waxing.

2. Optimize energy efficiency through re-lamping existing light fixtures to LED and installing occupancy and daylight sensors.

3. Implement retroactive commissioning to optimize existing building systems

4. Zone out specialized areas of operation, such as administration functions, and ramp down HVAC for additional energy savings off hours. Not all areas of a hospital require 24-hour operation.

5. Reduce heat island effect on roofs through green roof installation or high reflectivity roofing.

6. Provide better opportunities for recycling within the hospital, as well as adequate areas for recycling, sorting, storage and compaction.

7. Introduce low consumption water closets and lavatories, in addition to hands-free sensors. This also contributes to reducing cross contamination.

8. Utilize process heat from sterilization and laundry services as a means of heat recovery.

Parkin Experience

A long-standing leader in sustainable healthcare design, Parkin’s portfolio includes a number of notable projects with sustainable initiatives:

• NICU renovation at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre; Parkin introduced a PVC-free environment for both material and supplies. The elimination of PVC provides a non-toxic environment to premature babies who are highly sensitive to the known toxins in these materials.

• A complete renovation of the Canadian Blood Services Building, including re-purposing of a historic building that had been unused. The project recently received the BOMA award for achievements in building operations.

• The design for a new Rehab and ABI Building in Hamilton  incorporated a bridge connection  to the existing General Hospital to tie in a central, co-generation facility for heating and power, while also providing direct access for visitors and patients.

• Ongoing departmental renovations at McMaster University Medical Centre and Grand River Hospital, including the introduction of low flow plumbing fixtures (where possible), occupancy sensors to control lighting, and a replacement program of floor finishes with linoleum.