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Healthy environments – designing for a sustainable future

Healthy environments – designing for a sustainable future

Globally, the healthcare sector emits 4.4% of net yearly emissions, around the same as 514 coal-fired power plants.1 Interestingly, as well as these traditional measures, attention is turning towards “social sustainability” to improve well-being in society. Healthcare design company Evoke Projects looks at what it means to have a healthy and sustainable healthcare practice.

Sustainability has been defined as establishing the “goal of balancing the planet, people and profit to produce success and viability in the long-term”.2 True sustainability requires a holistic approach that covers healthcare practice design, construction methods and sustainable activities. A good place to start is an audit of the existing or proposed facility. Look at energy consumption, energy leaks, waste and the environmental impact of the healthcare practice operations.

Benefits of a sustainable healthcare practice

The Green Business Bureau outlines the main benefits that can be enjoyed by a sustainable healthcare practice:3

  • Lower utility bills and other operational costs
  • Elevated brand and positive image
  • Greater employee satisfaction and retention
  • Patient and community trust
  • Lower carbon footprint and environmental impact

Building sustainability rating systems

Green Star link to and NABERS are the primary building sustainability rating systems in Australia.

Green Star assesses the sustainability attributes of a project through impact categories. Australia’s first Green Star-rated healthcare facility is the Flinders Medical Centre New South Wing in Adelaide. Compared to an equivalent benchmark building, energy consumption is 42 per cent less, energy costs are $400,000 less and water consumption is 20 per cent less. Site wide CO2 emissions reduced by 4,160 tonnes, equivalent to taking 810 cars off the road for an entire year.4

NABERS is a national rating system that measures the environmental performance of Australian buildings and tenancies with a rating system from one to six stars for energy, water, waste and indoor environment.

Social sustainability – improve well-being in society

The WELL Building StandardTM is a vehicle for buildings and organisations to deliver more thoughtful and intentional spaces that enhance human health and well-being. Healthcare practice design is, of course, central to human health and well-being.

International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) Chairman and CEO Rick Fedrizzi and President Rachel Gutter describe a “second wave of sustainability” that “focuses on human performance, and must build on top of the first wave that focused primarily on building performance. The green building movement brought together the energy efficiency market that lowered greenhouse gas emissions of buildings that accelerate climate change, and the WELL Building Standard (WELL) is now repositioning sustainability through a more human-focused lens to advance human health on a global scale”.5

WELL can help healthcare practices advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through objectives around Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind and Community.

Sustainability trends in healthcare

Dassiet is a healthcare company with a focus on developing functional and sustainable supermaterials.
Kerkko Visuri, manager of design, marketing, and digital development, outlines recent healthcare sustainability trends:6

  • Renewable energy such as solar roof panels
  • Reduce the use of latex
  • Reduce chemical exposure especially floor wax
  • Implement a building automation system for better efficiency, reduced cost and waste
  • Optimise the supply chain, eliminating overstocking and cutting down on the environmental impact of transportation
  • Medical recycling

 Sustainable healthcare fit-outs

A new healthcare fit-out is a great opportunity to create a more sustainable practice.

  1. Lighting accounts for around 18–40% of electricity usage in commercial premises.7 Add occupancy sensors to automatically switch lights on/off and responsive lights that change according to the amount of daylight. LED lights are a good solution for cost and energy savings.
  2. Reduce water usage and bills with low-flow aerator taps and low flush toilets. Aerator taps mix air into the water to give the impression of a heavier flow but they use as little as 2 litres per minute, one third of a standard tap. New style toilets will typically use 3.5L per flush compared to 12L for an old single-flush toilet.
  3. Installing showers and bicycle lock-ups will encourage staff to cycle to work, rather than using cars or buses. A fitter, healthier workforce is a more motivated one

Minimising the use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) reduces the negative health impacts associated with these products. Evoke Projects can advise you on sustainable choices of insulation, paints, coatings, adhesives, furniture and furnishings, composite wood products and flooring materials for your healthcare fit-out.Even a minor healthcare practice refurbishment can make a difference, such as re-sealing windows and doors or adding energy efficient ceiling fans.

Please call the design and fit-out experts at Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692 for more information about sustainable healthcare practice design.


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