Air quality is one of the first things people notice when they enter Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin.
"There's always a moment when people look up and there's an 'OOh, this doesn't look like a hospital,'" said Michele Van Hyfte, environmental stewardship manager for the Seton Healthcare Family, a division of Ascension Health. "Then we say, 'Take a deep breath,' and they say, 'It doesn't smell like a hospital either.'"
Dell Children's was designed to anchor a sustainable redevelopment on the site of Austin's old Mueller Airport. The hospital was certified platinum under general standards that applied to hospitals, schools, and retail and office developments. But the hospital's W.H. and Elaine McCarty South Tower, which opened in May 2013, was the first project to be certified platinum under LEED standards developed in 2009 specifically for healthcare.
“There was high-level interest in making it the healthiest hospital—and, in particular, the healthiest children's medical center—in the world,” Van Hyfte said. Practice Greenhealth, a Reston, Va.-based advocate for environmental stewardship in healthcare, recognized Dell Children's in May as one of the top 25 environmentally responsible healthcare facilities in the country. It also won honors for being in Practice Greenhealth's top 10 for water conservation, energy conservation and green building practices.
A study published last September in the Journal of Hospital Administration found that Dell Children's had higher levels of staff engagement than two Seton hospitals that were not LEED-certified and also had lower turnover rates than the hospital it replaced. “This study demonstrates that the quality of the hospital environment has social, environmental and cost implications that aligns with the intention of sustainable design,” according to the study.
Dell Children's was the first hospital in the country certified platinum under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, which recognizes projects with environmentally sustainable construction and operation. Out of the almost 5,700 hospitals in the U.S., only three have received platinum certification. The others are the Kiowa County Memorial Hospital in Greensburg, Kan., certified in 2011, and Katz Women's Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y., certified in 2012 and 2013.