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Akron Children’s goes green with LEED to build new medical tower

Abstract design features in the future lobby play into the "things familiar" and backyard ideas. The blue wall represents an abstract fence. The design team is also working on large tree sculptures and a ceiling sculpture element to symbolize a tree canopy of leaves.

In the new building, many areas like the lobby will rely on a lot of natural light, one of the things engineered to get LEED certification.

When Akron Children’s new medical building opens in 2015, it will have a LEED for Healthcare Silver certification, reflecting the building’s environmentally-responsible and resource-efficient status.

Started in 1998, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a rating system for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of green buildings, based on potential environmental impacts and human benefits.  Recognizing that buildings in the healthcare industry face different challenges than office buildings and homes, there’s a special LEED for Healthcare.

Chris Mundell

Chris Mundell

“LEED is a volunteer program, not a code.  It provides guidelines,” said Chris Mundell, vice president/sustainable design coordinator at HKS Architects.

According to Mundell,  Akron Children’s intended this to be a LEED building from the earliest planning stages.  In May 2012, a LEED meeting was held with hospital administration, architects, engineers, contractors and trade partners to discuss ways to incorporate sustainable materials, lean principles and energy efficiencies.

Mundell admits that LEED can be a stretch for healthcare design.

“Healthcare facilities are open 24/7, making it difficult to manage energy and water use,” he said. “For example, a medical tower for children requires frequent air changing, which is hard on energy efficiency.”

Another challenge is using less water without impacting infection control.  One solution being considered, according to Mundell, is low-flow toilets and faucets in public restrooms.

“We are trying to be better than conventional healthcare facilities built to code,” said Mundell.  “We have a 15 percent energy reduction goal and a 30 percent water reduction goal.”

Akron Children’s primary focus is to make an impact through design and construction, such as healthier indoor materials, for the benefit of patients and employees, including low emission paints, adhesives, coatings and flooring.

“Sustainable construction materials, like the use of recycled materials, certified wood, and local sourcing of materials when possible, is another area of focus,” Mundell said.

The project teams are also addressing sustainability through more efficient mechanical systems, use of natural light and LED lighting, and adding green spaces where patients and staff can relax.

Although LEED initiatives can sometimes increase construction costs, Mundell stresses that for Akron Children’s the cost has been minimal.

“The necessary documentation of compliance with the requirements of the rating system is extra work and extra money,” he said. “And there are registration and certification fees, but good design decisions shouldn’t cost more.”

Once the building is completed, Akron Children’s will track water and energy use for five years after construction.

“Akron Children’s is still a work in progress. We are trying to create a nice facility that works operationally, but is still sustainable,” Mundell said.  “We can’t do everything, but we are using LEED to guide us.”

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