Cluff remains a supporter of the LEED program in general, explaining that it “set the tone for the design and construction of the project from the beginning.” But, he adds, achieving a certain score under a certain system was not the motivation behind designing an environmentally sustainable facility. “Our goal was that you didn't have to say which credits we received and didn't receive, just that—when you walked in the building—you knew it was different,” he says.
Kaiser Permanente's Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro, Ore., opened Aug. 6 and already earned gold certification under the previous LEED criteria. It's the integrated healthcare mega-system's first LEED gold hospital and now there will be no turning back. Kaiser has committed to seeking a minimum of LEED HC gold certification for all its new hospitals and major construction projects where the criteria would be applicable. And its plans call for building $30 billion worth of new facilities over the next 10 years.
Though it can be difficult to track how much LEED design elements add to a facility's price tag, Kaiser Chief Energy Officer Ramé Hemstreet says, in general, the additional first costs of pursuing LEED certification account for less than 1% of the expense of a construction project, with payback from energy and water utility savings coming within four to five years and a fivefold return on investment being realized over the life of a building.
Hemstreet adds that Kaiser's goal is to reduce its carbon footprint 30% by 2020. This involves reducing the 850,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases its facilities produced in 2008 to 600,000. “That's a fairly ambitious goal if you consider that, in the meantime, we're adding additional facilities,” he says, explaining that strategies to increase both energy efficiency and generating renewable energy will be used.
In Hawaii, for example, Kaiser plans to install solar energy equipment at seven existing facilities and at one under construction. It's expected that solar power will account for 10% of the energy needs for those eight facilities. Ground hasn't been broken for the new 321-bed Kaiser Permanente San Diego Central Hospital Medical Center, but Hemstreet says that—when it's completed in 2017—it will be the site of many environmental innovations such as active chilled beam technology, which provides more-efficient cooling at a facility.
Hemstreet says LEED standards past and present serve as a guide for Kaiser's environmental agenda, but they do so without maintaining a hard line on how to reach sustainability goals.
“The worst thing you can do is be proscriptive in how you're going to achieve it,” he says. “I think LEED gets us to 95% of where we want to be.”
Seton's Van Hyfte agrees, adding that healthcare architecture is being redefined and LEED HC certification is influencing how that's being done.
“We wanted the healthiest environment possible for the healing process,” she says of Dell Children's new platinum-certified tower. “The goals that we set for this project were very much in alignment with LEED for Healthcare.”
Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks