Thinking of Green & Going for Gold

Green: made with little environmental harm; produced in an environmentally and ecologically friendly way.

Thinking of Green, Going for GoldWhen design began on Jersey Shore University Medical Center's expansion project, hospital officials were not immediately thinking green. Transforming and improving patient care was their first priority.

But as the expansion project broke ground in 2006, it became clear that the decisions Jersey Shore and Meridian officials were making were also the right green decisions, according to Jersey Shore president Steven G. Littleson. Now Jersey Shore is not only thinking green – they're going for the gold.

In 2006, hospital officials made the decision to go for certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program developed by the U. S. Green Building Council. The Sheward Partnership, LLC, an architectural and sustainability consulting firm from Philadelphia, was brought on board to oversee Jersey Shore's LEED certification of the building designed by WHR Architects of Houston, Texas and PWI Engineering of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

There are currently 40 LEED certified healthcare facilities nationwide, and only 13 of these are hospitals. Jersey Shore officials are striving to have the hospital certified at the gold level, which would make it only the third gold-certified hospital in the nation and the first on the East Coast.

Seeking LEED certification was no small decision. But the direction of the expansion project already leaned to green, Littleson said.

"There are really some things within the design and construction process that made sense, that we would have done anyway – and the bonus was we got credit for them under this program," Littleson said.

For example: bringing fresh air into the hospital.

"It's cheaper to re-circulate the air. But it's healthier to bring in fresh air. It's cleaner, and it helps keep down infections," Littleson said."It makes more sense to do it that way and we would have done it that way, regardless of the LEED designation."

LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. Developed by the U. S. Green Building Council in 2000, LEED currently serves as a tool for verifying green buildings of all types and sizes.

LEED operates on a point system where building projects earn points for satisfying specific green building criteria such as sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, and indoor environmental quality. The number of points the project earns determines the level of LEED certification the project receives, with levels running from certified, silver, gold and platinum.

Only two other hospitals – Providence Newberg Medical Center in Oregon and St. Mary's Duluth Clinic in Minnesota – have gold certification. Jersey Shore, if it receives gold certification, will be the largest hospital in the nation with that distinction.

The "greening" of Jersey Shore's expansion project ranged from larger components – such as the two gas-fired co-generation units that convert onsite waste into steam heath, resulting in a 32 percent reduction in energy costs – to the smaller touches, such as making sure there is secure storage for bicycles and showers and changing facilities for the bicycle riders.

"The project team's dedication to water and energy conservation and superior indoor air quality really make this project stand out," said Brian Alessi, sustainability consultant from The Sherward Partnership. Jersey Shore will receive word on its certification status this fall.

Water consumption has been reduced by 30 percent or 3,600 gallons per day – or 1,314,000 gallons per year, said Michael Pavelsky, sustainability director for Sherward."The designers used low-flow wherever practical, in sinks, showers and urinals," he said."The designers made it low flow enough to save water but no low enough to spark complaints about low water pressure."

One of the green challenges was light pollution for the buildings and parking areas."The hospital is really close to residential neighborhoods. In some cases people's backyards come right up to the property," Pavelsky said. The designers had to cut down on the light pollution control at the same time balancing safety.

Recycled material accounted for $6.5 million in the project. In order to qualify for LEED, the project had to make use of 10 percent recycled material.

Some 8 to 10 months after the project is complete, a survey developed by the Center for the Build Environment at the University of California, Berkeley, will be distributed to staff to see what needs to be corrected.

"Something I think is notable is the continuous measurement and verification plan that Jersey Shore will be implementing. This plan helps to insure that all the energy efficiency strategies that were in the design are actually being realized throughout the lifetime of the building," Alessi said.

After the building opens and the LEED certification is awarded, this plan will help to ensure that the building stays as green as possible long after the doors open.

Charles Buboltz, vice president for facilities, planning and management, for Meridian Health stressed that during the expansion design and construction, hospital officials simply wanted to ensure that the right decisions were made each and every time.

Carefully considering the potential clinical, cost, and energy benefits, the project team worked to ensure the "green" decisions were made for the right reasons.

"We did not make our decisions for the sake of obtaining a green label. We made sound, conscientious decisions for our patients and staff, the environment, and our business. The result is that we will be operating 'green'," Buboltz said.