Another Kind of Reform for Health Care - Doo Consulting Blog

Sustainability: Another Kind Of Reform For Health Care?

Hospital executives, politicians and citizens alike already know that costs and spending on health care are unsustainable. In 2010, more than $2.6 trillion dollars were spent delivering health care in the US, and health care spending is increasing faster than per-capita income. Reform efforts are underway to address the problems, but the challenges are tremendously complex, and require new, creative strategies.

One cost-savings strategy worth talking about is greening health care buildings and operations. Hospital boards, administrators, patients, community residents, politicians, and policy makers could benefit from learning the diverse ways in which these “returns” manifest – particularly when margins for hospitals are so low, and increasingly at risk.


Estimates for construction on new health care facilities range from $15 to $40 billion per year in the coming years. These new buildings may feature state-of-the-art medical technology, but many health care facilities, especially hospitals, are not designed and built using green building methods. In spite of increasingly available evidence of return on investment data that supports green building, there is still far to go before these design strategies become the norm.

What would happen if hospital executives asked the building industry to take a fresh view of what a hospital could and should be? What if green building standards were followed in the design of all health care facilities? The potential savings from improvements in energy and water use, reduced medical errors, reduced waste and improved patient outcomes is in the billions. Let’s take a look at how that potential can be achieved.


Savings are possible through many facets of sustainable design. Energy is one of the greatest expenses for health care facilities. Hospitals are ’24/7′ operations, so they use twice the amount of energy per square foot compared to office buildings. Through early planning, sustainable design strategies can achieve energy reductions of 12 to 20 percent in any facility – medical arts building, hospital, laboratory. Imagine if the health care industry as a whole were to embrace not only energy conservation but energy integration, in which waste heat or energy is recaptured as an energy source for other areas of the building. Building by building, system by system, and nationwide, the savings would grow from the millions…to the billions of dollars.


Water is extensively used in hospitals, and is a precious, costly resource – and potable water is often wasted just for equipment cooling purposes. In fact, process water (for chilling, laundry, boilers, etc.) comprises about 75 percent of hospital water use. Reductions in water usage of 20, 30 or 40 percent are now possible through green building technologies – yielding savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings for each facility. And, of course, less water usage means less energy usage. When health care profit margins are so small, hospital administrators and other decision makers to know about savings of this magnitude.


A green building also means a people-centered building – this means a building that puts a premium on the health, comfort, day lighting and views for the individuals that use the building – either as the employees, visitors or patients. There are an increasing number of studies that can show that avoiding volatile building materials leads to fewer employee sick days, more comfortable environments often result in higher productivity and may even contribute to improvements in patient outcomes, or a sense of “feeling better.”

Using green building techniques and technologies, experienced sustainable design teams can help committed health care organizations to build their facilities affordably, with appropriate sustainability goals. If green building opportunities are discussed, planned and integrated early in the design process, construction costs for building green can be minimized.


There is no argument that health care costs are increasing; energy costs are rising; water scarcity issues are on the horizon; the population is aging and living longer with more chronic diseases. And even if there were a debate about the cause of climate change, few would refute that there are changes in our climate.

Given these new issues and the green building benefits described above, it is time for a discussion about building more cost-effective, efficient, health care facilities that will ultimately make the health care system more sustainable.

The US Green Building Council Maryland Chapter has organized a program to make the connection between ROI and sustainability, and sustainability and health. It takes place on on September 13th, in Baltimore, Maryland.


Healthy Buildings/Healthy Hospitals: The Human + Financial Return on Investment

When: September 13th, 2012, 7:30 AM to 11 AM
Where: 750 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

Speakers include executives from area hospitals, sharing case studies of LEED Certified and Registered hospitals:

  • Carolyn Core of Anne Arundel Medical Center,
  • David Stokes on behalf of Holy Cross Hospital, and
  • Tony Kelly from Shore Health System
  • Chris Mundell of HKS, author of a program on LEED for Health Care, with national experience designing a variety of LEED certified buildings, including hospitals, will moderate the first panel.

And speakers discussing State and National initiatives for hospitals embracing sustainability:

  • Joan Plisko, Director of Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment discussing the advances in sustainable operations across Maryland hospitals;
  • Seema Wadhwa, Director of the National Healthier Hospitals Initiatives on challenging hospital executives to accept one or more of seven health and sustainability goals in hospitals across the country
  • Rebecca Ruggles from the Maryland Environmental Health Network regarding the impact of environmental issues on health in Baltimore and the wide-scale, collaborative effort in hospitals and schools underway in Baltimore City, and
  • Melissa Gallagher-Rogers from USGBC National discussing LEED for Health Care projects across the country, and the new health initiative at USGBC.

Come participate in this groundbreaking event and be a part of shaping the future of how health care facilities are designed, built and operated.

To register, click here or go to

For more information, contact Lorraine Doo at 410-207-0682 or at lorraine[at]dooconsulting[dot]net.