New childrens hospital aims for LEED status

December 4, 2010
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Can a glass-sheathed hospital have any chance of obtaining Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification?

Yes, say Josh Miller, sustainability coordinator for Spectrum Health, and two URS project administrators who worked on the $286 million, 206-bed Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in downtown Grand Rapids. The hospital, scheduled to start accepting patients Jan. 11, was open for public tours over the weekend.

“While the majority of it is glass, it’s a special glass system — a very high-performance curtain wall system,” said Art Veneklase, a mechanical engineer and project administrator for LEED certification for URS.

“While it is almost 100 percent glass, the glass has two films suspended between the panes of glass, which allow that curtain wall system to outperform a typical insulated wall with 50 percent insulated glass on it.”

The four-element curtain wall is similar to the swaths of glass at airport terminals, added Dave Byl, URS project manager for the children’s hospital. It features 140,000 square feet and 6,800 pieces of glass — more than 760,000 tons of glass and aluminum

Veneklase said that he anticipates that the U.S. Green Building Council will release LEED specifications for health care in 2011. But those won’t apply to the new 14-story, 444,000-square-foot hospital, he said. The construction team juggled health care standards and mandates with the Green Guide for Health Care already in place in five areas:

Site development: The hospital, at the corner of Michigan Street and Bostwick Avenue NE, recycled 95 percent, or 13,265 tons, of the parking structure it replaced. Concrete was munched for aggregate and steel rebar melted for reuse, Veneklase said.

Water savings: With hand washing a high priority for infection control, Veneklase said sinks were tailored to their locations to control water usage.

Energy efficiency: Lighting was tailored to each area, Byl said. For example, although many lights are automated, hospital staff wanted to avoid waking patients with lights that go on and off with motion detectors. So patient room lights go on with switches, he said. Also, heat released by the air conditioning system will be recaptured to heat water.

Materials and resources selection: “Hospitals need materials that will hold up to a lot of traffic and cleaning, and yet still there is a need for acoustical dampening. We tried to use recycled content and low VOC materials, but we want to make sure, long term, they will hold up,” Veneklase said.

Indoor environmental quality: Miller said the children’s hospital will be part of a campus-wide effort to move toward green cleaning solutions, for example. Veneklase said that in addition to monitoring outside air that is brought into the building, the construction team decided to go beyond standards by putting HEPA filters in every patient room, not just specialized care areas.

“It goes with the whole children’s hospital and that healing environment,” said Miller, noting that Spectrum Health has now committed to LEED standards for new construction projects.

“When you have patients and families and guests, you want to make it as comfortable as possible. I think LEED really helps achieve that.”

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