Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community

Health care goes green

Sustainability integrated into future design

Spring 2008

Play eases the anxiety of Bernard Dannenberg's young patient.

Jesse Tinajero helps maintain the gardens at Stanford Hospital and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

Krisanne Hanson thinks about what “green” means every day at Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. As general services project manager for the two hospitals, Hanson is keenly aware of the opportunities for health care facilities to make sustainability a priority.

“The medical center has more than 300 recycling bins with weekly pickup,” she said. “Over the past three years, we have averaged 371 tons of recyclable beverage containers, mixed paper and cardboard annually. We are very proud that this is our 20th year of recycling these materials.” 

The hospitals have also converted to Green Seal Certified® cleaning chemicals and have extensive efforts under way to reduce energy, water usage and hazardous waste.

Some windows at Packard have movable shutters that promote passive solar heat reduction. Both hospitals use digital radiology scans, nearly eliminating the use of water as well as hazardous waste associated with traditional X-ray processing. More than 21 tons of linens that can no longer be used are sent to a recycler instead of going to landfills.

Healthier hospitals

Hanson is very excited about the hospitals’ “green” activities today but even more enthused about how sustainability is being incorporated into the design of the new Stanford Hospital and expansion of Packard Children’s Hospital. She was in the packed audience at the Medical Center Renewal Project’s public forum on sustainability, “Modern Hospitals, Sustainable Design: What ‘Green’ Means for Hospital Design, Healing Environments and Health Care.”

The forum featured nationally recognized experts on sustainable hospital design, energy conservation and green building practices used to create healthier hospital environments.

Robin Guenther of the New York office of the architectural firm Perkins +Will noted that health care is the second most intensive sector for energy use in the country, exceeded only by food service. While the need to meet state-mandated seismic safety requirements is a catalyst for the massive hospital building program in California, a poll of hospital executives nationwide found that they regard enhancing the well-being of patients and staff as the most important reason sustainability has become a priority.

Design opportunities

Guenther explained that the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards developed as a framework for rating levels of sustainability were written for commercial office buildings. A voluntary Green Guide for Health Care was developed to provide relevant standards for health care facilities, and more than 132 pilot projects were under way by fall 2007.

Case studies from throughout the country illustrate the wide range of sustainable design and practices that new health care facilities can apply. For example, the new Oregon Health and Science University Center for Health and Healing in Portland exceeded energy efficiency code requirements by 61 percent. The 16-story, 400,000-square-foot outpatient building uses nearly 60 percent less potable water than a similar conventional building does. All its sewage is treated in an on-site membrane bioreactor. Building systems also include an integrated day-lighting system, naturally ventilated stair towers, radiant heating and eco-roofs. Rainwater and wastewater are harvested for landscape irrigation.

“There is a hierarchy of sustainable design opportunities in health-care facilities,” Guenther said.

Regulations and values

Hanson and her colleagues are already hard at work on Tier 4 efforts today, even as they participate in planning for the future.

“Unfortunately, there is no magic checklist to tell us what to do,” said architect Pauline Souza, a LEED-certified associate partner and director of green services at San Francisco-based WRNS Studio. “There are broad categories we can follow, and it depends on what you value. For example, is it better to have shorter distances for patients to walk versus ensuring that all patient rooms have access to natural light?”

Hospitals also must follow extensive regulations that do not apply to other types of facilities and that can impact their ability to achieve sustainability goals.

“I have never seen a more highly regulated industry than health care, except possibly biotechnology,” said Mark Bramfitt, principal program manager of High-Tech Market and Customer Energy Efficiency at Pacific Gas & Electric. “People in the industry really believe in sustainability. It’s heartfelt: We have a responsibility to the communities and the people we serve.”

Play eases the anxiety of Bernard Dannenberg's young patient.

Environmental efforts

  • In 2002, Stanford medical center was one of the first 17 hospitals to be recognized by H2E (Hospitals for a Healthy Environment) in the “Making Medicine Mercury Free” program. 
  • The medical center recycles a combined 885 tons per year of shredded paper, beverage containers, mixed paper and cardboard.
  • The medical center recycles more than 16 tons of batteries annually.
  • The E-Waste (electronic waste) recycling program launched in 2002 averages eight tons per year.
  • More than 2,000 printer cartridges are returned for reuse each year.
  • About 20 medical charity foundations and organizations have received more than 70 tons of medical supplies and equipment.


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