Efficient — And Then Some

October 29, 2008
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Kalamazoo County’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-eligible health building is the new home of Bronson Advanced Radiology Services at 534 S. Park St.

“Early on, when we were talking about concepts for the building — the design itself — we talked about trying to make the building as efficient as possible,” said Brook Ward, vice president of clinical and ambulatory services at Bronson Methodist Hospital, who oversees radiology operations.

“Through those conversations with the architect, we decided, if that’s really our goal with the building, we ought to try to design it to be a LEED-certified building from the start.”

BARS is a joint venture between Bronson Methodist Hospital and Advanced Radiology Services’ Kalamazoo Division. It provides outpatient imaging services, such as CT scans and magnetic resonance imaging.

Ward said surveys of physicians and patients showed they like the downtown location, and it jibes well with Bronson’s commitment to support the central city. He said a $3.6 million “lipstick and rouge” renovation would have provided a building good for 10 years, but the $10.6 million construction could last 30 to 40 years.

Vicki Nelson, vice president of Diekema Hamann Architecture + Engineering, said construction of Kalamazoo County’s first LEED-eligible health care building was a natural extension for Bronson’s decade-long commitment to environmentally friendly practices.

“Bronson has a whole history of environmental efforts going back many years, starting with medical waste, initially,” said Nelson, who, like all 26 members of the Diekema Hamann architecture, engineering and interior design staff, has LEED accreditation. “Knowing them, because we’ve worked with so much … we offered to design to those standards and pursue certification.”

The new 30,000-square-foot building was constructed in the parking lot while business continued in the old one, circa 1976. Now that the new building is open, the old building is being torn down and, of course, 80 percent to 90 percent of the materials are being recycled according to LEED standards. After the demolition, work began on the new building’s front entrance, which was to be completed last month. The two buildings were only about five feet apart, too close to allow the entrance to be constructed as the same time at the new building, Ward said.

Ward said the new building is not only more efficient from a design standpoint, but operationally, as well. Even though the new building is 15,000 square feet smaller than the old one, Ward said he expects it will serve more patients, thanks to the added services of a laboratory for blood draws, nuclear medicine and digital mammography. Two digital mammogram machines replaced the previous four film-based ones, and Dr. Eduardo Crotte, medical director for BARS, said the faster turn-around time will more than make up for fewer machines.

Crotte said there are a total of 24 Advanced Radiology physicians in Kalamazoo. At least two are stationed at the BARS building, and with networking capabilities, the rest can be at the hospital or scattered elsewhere and still be able to read images.

“We are tied through the PAC archiving system to Bronson, so specialists don’t have to be physically present in the building, but they can access any study done in the Bronson system,” Crotte said. “Before, we weren’t as electronically tied together. It’s a lot more efficient at our end.”

He said the former Kalamazoo Radiology merged with Grand Rapids-based Advanced Radiology to form the Kalamazoo division, which has an exclusive contract with Bronson. The hospital and Advanced Radiology formed a joint venture in 2004, which runs BARS. He said BARS performs about 30,000 diagnostic images annually.

“Most of these tests we do come attached with some bit of stress,” Crotte added. “We’ve tried to make everything leading up to imaging as stress-free as possible. All the patient areas are on the periphery of the building. All those areas are flooded with natural light and soothing colors.”

While LEED construction is still in its infancy in Kalamazoo County, Ward said Bronson has been a leader in its green efforts.

“Bronson, for a long time, has worked hard to improve our environmental footprint,” Ward said. “This is one additional footstep down that path. If we in health care can’t lead that charge, no one else will. We are always remodeling and building. It’s the perfect industry to marry health care environments with a better building design process.” HQ

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