In this series, Healthcare design Ask leading healthcare design professionals, companies, and owners to tell us what caught their attention and share some thoughts on the topic.
Komal Kotwal is a leader in sustainable design for health, well-being and equity at HOK (Houston). Here, she shared her views on the new drivers behind climate resilience, community health and sustainable design.
- Carbon neutral
Increasing attention to climate change has forced medical institutions to adopt policies and practices to reduce emissions. Organizations must not only set goals to achieve carbon neutrality or net zero carbon dioxide emissions, but must also develop clear plans to achieve these goals. Bold steps, such as carbon accounting and a roadmap for a net-zero carbon strategy. The use of renewable energy sources such as solar or wind energy will help ensure success. New technologies and design strategies make the design of net-zero carbon buildings more mainstream and commercially viable.
- Climate resilience
A recent report by the non-profit research and technology organization First Street Foundation (Brooklyn, New York) showed that 25% of critical infrastructure in the United States, including hospitals, are at risk of flooding. Due to extreme weather events caused by sea level rise and climate change, this number is expected to only increase. Climate resilience is-and must be-a key aspect of emergency preparedness. In low-lying areas such as Louisiana, Florida, and Texas (or as seen recently in many northeastern states, healthcare buildings should be designed to operate in emergency situations related to flooding and rising sea levels. Climate) Resilience design strategies, including selecting low-impact development sites, combining green spaces and afforestation, and building systems designed for continuous operations in emergency situations, can help medical institutions prepare for extreme weather events.
- Community health
Health, equity and climate change are inextricably linked. In the past 50 years, the number of extreme weather disasters has increased dramatically. Failure to respond or operate during a climate event puts the communities served by the healthcare system at risk. As a large public building in the center of our community, the hospital should give back to the community through green infrastructure that improves air quality, open spaces where communities gather, and biophilic design solutions that help support patients and staff.
- The new driving force behind sustainable design
Ten years ago, the decision to invest in sustainable projects had to come from the top leadership of the organization. Now, from the government to investors, to stakeholders and employees, everyone is pushing organizations to set ambitious sustainable development goals. Under the leadership of the current government, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services established the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE; Washington, DC) to encourage hospitals to reduce carbon emissions and provide sustainable healthcare facilities. Climate reports and environmental and social governance policies will become an indispensable part of the forward development of medical institutions. The good news is that investing in sustainable buildings will bring long-term financial, cultural and environmental returns. USGBC stated that statistics prove that green buildings can reduce operating and maintenance costs, reduce the spread of infectious diseases, increase productivity and job satisfaction, and create a sense of community.
- Waste management and mitigation
As many as 71% of the environmental footprint of healthcare organizations is generated through supply chain production, transportation, and processing of commodities such as drugs, food, equipment, and equipment. By setting waste transfer goals and developing ways to achieve net zero waste, the system can have a positive impact on the environment. In addition, they can use their influence and purchasing power to encourage suppliers and suppliers to switch from single-use plastics to sustainable packaging. Establishing procurement standards that require suppliers to comply with social and environmental guidelines and share annual environmental, social and governance reports is another way to change.
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