Hello Building! You Make Me Feel So Much Better!
You have probably heard of sick buildings and buildings that make you sick, but have you heard of buildings that help you get well? That is the principle behind the unique LEED for Healthcare (LEED-HC) rating system. The idea is that a healthy environment can go hand-in-hand with the health of patients in healthcare facilities. LEED-HC represents collaboration between the U.S. Green Building Council and the Green Guide for Health Care (GGHC). It is an idea whose time has come as the nation increasingly focuses on patient care and healthcare costs.
The GGHC is a best practices guide for health care building that preceded the LEED for Healthcare. LEED-HC takes the GGHC, strengthens it, and establishes minimum requirements for third-party certification. What makes LEED-HC different from other certification categories is that it includes provisions that address healthcare-specific best practices that go beyond just incorporating sustainable building. These provisions are designed to ensure that building occupants are not exposed to an environment that exacerbates existing health conditions or leads to new ones.
Show Me the Evidence
LEED-HC includes credits based on designs that take into account patient health. For example, Sustainable Sites Credit 9.1 is intended to promote the design and construction of outdoor locations that building occupants can use for respite and to promote wellness. In another example, Indoor Environmental Quality Credit 2 – Acoustic Environment provides for the acoustical quality and materials that promote a healing environment.
If you think about it, these credits are a bit remarkable because they are based on evidence-based design strategies. This means that many of the design concepts used in healthcare facilities are based on evidence that they will bring building occupants with medical issues some kind of benefit. The benefit accrued from the physical environment might be a better mood, faster healing, fewer complications, and so on. The desired outcomes can be defined by the healthcare team and researchers, and the project team then matches building features to desired outcomes based on hard evidence.
Show Me the Money
Though evidence-based design is now an accepted concept, it is not widely known outside of the healthcare industry. That said, anyone who has ever walked into a room and discovered it created a sense of calm, and; thus, lowered stress levels, can understand the idea behind the concept. We know well-lit, cheerful rooms and certain paint colors can actually lower blood pressure. That is the principle behind evidence-based design.
Of course, there are going to be economic returns through the use of form and space to improve patient wellness and the well-being of occupants. For example, if people heal faster, they are able to leave the hospital sooner, and that lowers health care costs. For this reason, there is no doubt that the idea of evidence-based design will expand beyond healthcare facilities one day, as the concept is increasingly embraced by architects, engineers, and building owners.
Have you ever experienced a feeling of wellness or of lower stress in certain buildings? Was it a healthcare facility?