UF Health Heart Vascular & Neuromedicine Hospitals cited for environmental friendliness

 


By: Bill Levesque

The new UF Health Heart & Vascular and Neuromedicine hospitals are the first medical facilities in the Southeast to earn a prestigious four Green Globes certification for environmental friendliness.

That is the highest building certification available from the nonprofit Green Building Initiative, which has awarded four Green Globes to only two other buildings in Florida. One of those is a University of Florida neighbor, Gainesville’s Meadowbrook Elementary School.

The certification shows the hospitals, which open to patients Dec. 10, demonstrate “national leadership and excellence in the practice of energy, water and environmental efficiency to reduce environmental impacts,” according to the organization.

Brad Pollitt, A.I.A., UF Health Shands vice president of facilities, said sustainability and efficient resource utilization are high priorities at UF and were taken into account during the earliest stages of planning.

“It’s got to be in your heart and soul as an organization to embrace sustainability for the good of the community,” he said. “It’s part of UF’s DNA and goes into everything we do. We’re very proud of this certification.”

The Green Building Initiative, headquartered in Portland, Ore., is an organization that describes its mission as being dedicated to the promotion of building practices resulting in “resource efficient, healthier and environmentally sustainable buildings.”

Pollitt said the certification serves as a public declaration of the commitment by UF Health for making the campus and community, and ultimately the planet, a better place to live.

Pollitt said UF Health’s relationship with Gainesville Regional Utilities, or GRU, played an important role in earning four Green Globes. GRU operates the South Energy Center near the hospitals, which will supply them with electricity, hot and chilled water and steam.

The energy center, which produces more than 12 megawatts of electricity, also provides power to the adjacent UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital.

A third-party assessment of the UF Health Heart & Vascular and Neuromedicine hospitals, required by the Green Building Initiative, pointed to the facilities’ efficiency measures and new investment in the energy center as keys to the designation. One example of that was the installation of a new, 10,000-horsepower generator at the energy center to bolster the existing generator at the site.

“The energy center generates power onsite, which means it doesn’t have to distribute it over distribution lines,” which is more energy-efficient, Pollitt said. “The heat that comes off that generation gets turned into steam and chilled water, which would normally be thrown into the atmosphere. We essentially recycle what would have been thrown-away heat.”

Aside from the power plant, the Green Globes certification also is based on less obvious aspects of the hospitals’ design.

UF Health, for example, encourages employees to bicycle to work by providing covered parking for bikes and a place to shower. Those bicycles lessen vehicle traffic on area roads and help ease pollution. Bird strikes on windows, a common problem in tall buildings, are avoided using window shades or frits, a form of patterned glass.

Other important points in winning certification include having a parking garage, ample trees on site, exemplary insulation, low-flow showers and toilets, drip irrigation and nearby mass transit, among many other design features.

This is the first time UF Health has sought Green Globes certification. Other UF Health and campus buildings are certificatied by the U.S. Green Building Council under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program.

The UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital, for example, has gold LEED certification.