Hospital first in U.S. to be certified ‘green’

Imagine a hospital that is surrounded by a natural wildlife habitat, where the walls are covered with environmentally friendly paints, and where there are outlets in the parking lot to charge electric cars.

At Boulder Community Foothills Hospital in Boulder, Colo., the design of the hospital and the extra precautions taken during its construction last year have made it the first hospital in the United States to be certified as a “green building” by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. LEED is a federally funded program to promote the development of sustainable buildings.

During the construction of the $75 million hospital, extra measures were instituted to reduce dust and recycle building materials. To help alleviate dust and indoor air pollution caused from construction, workers were not allowed to smoke on the jobsite. Unfinished ductwork was also capped, and tracks were vacuumed before the drywall was installed. Construction crews installed mechanical ventilation systems and operable windows to improve ventilation.

Part of the LEED building standard requires at least 50 percent of construction waste to be recycled or salvaged. During the hospital’s construction, recycling bins were placed on site for wood, metal, cardboard and concrete, which helped recycle 71 percent of the building waste from the project.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, special measures taken during construction to meet green building codes can cost up to 2 percent more than meeting traditional building codes. Much of this cost comes from using an ultra-efficient power generator for heat, lighting and hot water, from using special energy-saving compact florescent lighting, and from using unusual but environmentally friendly materials such as floors made of out flaxseed, low-volatile-organic-compound paints and adhesives and allergy-reducing carpets. Within 12 years, however, the power generator will pay for the increase in cost by saving money that would have been spent on electricity.

To blend in with the natural landscape, designers used native, drought-tolerant plants that will help lower water bills. The surrounding wooded area, which includes a prairie-dog colony and a wetland area, were spared during construction.