Getting the Gold in Green

Getting the Gold in Green

By Alex Spire

Harbor UCLA Medical Center is a 570 bed teaching facility that serves the 700,000 people of the South Bay. The medical center has begun the process of overhauling its master plan in an attempt to improve overall performance. And with the 2028 Olympic games on the horizon — the facility will act as the health center for the 2028 Olympics — the medical center has decided to expedite this process.

RBB architects will be teaming up with your friendly neighborhood Verdical Group to tackle this undertaking. As part of the update, UCLA’s medical center is seeking to obtain certification in LEED v4 and Envision v3. Principles from SITES and WELL will be incorporated into the design, but certification for these will not be pursued.  Each of these certifications and considerations will offer various benefits to the hospital’s performance, preparing it for the games and long after.

Envision v3 is designed to guide decision-making and to facilitate the development and maintenance of sustainable infrastructure throughout various stages of planning as well as post-construction. Envision is very comprehensive; it can be used for a variety of structures from large to small, including new construction and existing buildings. It is also applicable to roads, bridges, pipelines and other infrastructure.

This certification will be a huge asset because it will help determine the most efficient options for LEED, Living Building Challenge, etc. An additional benefit of Envision is that it confirms the effectiveness of sustainable practices through evaluation aspects such as avoidance (avoiding the creation of impacts), minimization (decreasing the presence of those that are unavoidable), abatement (rehabilitating areas that have seen various degrees of impact), and offsetting (taking sustainable measures to compensate for potential adverse impacts). Harbour UCLA will seek the Silver level of the certification, having 30% of applicable points confirmed.

LEED v4 (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a structured rating system that is accepted and used worldwide. 

Setting the trend for sustainability, LEED has contributed to the inception of various other codes and programs. To achieve Gold certification in LEEDv4, a respective project must achieve anywhere from 60-79 points that correspond with sustainable practices. Being above both a basic certification and a silver certification, LEED Gold demonstrates a commitment to responsible practices; such will be the case with Harbour UCLA’s certification. Working in tandem with the environmentally-conscious planning of SITES, LEED v4 will assure that patients can be as healthy as possible during their stay by preventing exposure to aspects one might encounter at a non-LEED certified hospital, such as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).

SITES is a ranking system meant to distinguish environmentally-conscious site planning and also offer guidance in improving ecological resilience. It is a unique system that steers away from the typical A+B = C solutions to problems and instead provides objectives. This leaves the achievement methods solely up to the design team. Harbor-UCLA will facilitate boosts in well-being for everyone by considering principles from this system. Things like climate regulation, carbon storage, air quality improvement and water filtration will be considered. Studies have shown that healing environments can contribute positively to a patient’s mental and physical recovery – these are the exact type of environments created by SITES.

The WELL considerations may focus on improvements in task lighting and in thermal comfort. Such considerations will benefit not only patients but the administration and staff who serve them. Productivity sees a dramatic increase when working environments offer physical comfort. If staff members are able to perform their jobs more efficiently, then all patients will receive superior care. The Living Building Challenge certification will further contribute to the aforementioned certifications through measures that intend to create “healthy and regenerative spaces.” Realization of these spaces are achieved through “seven petals”: place, water, energy, health/happiness, materials, equity and beauty. For patients, this will mean faster recovery due to healthy environmental exposure.

With a growing local population and the Olympic games on the horizon, its timeline for sustainability improvements and a master plan revamp has become more urgent. Because no one of these certifications is completely comprehensive, Harbor is leading the charge in healthcare sustainability by pursuing multiple certifications that offer a number of positive benefits that will improve the hospital’s general performance, decrease patient stays, and ultimately allow it to serve more people more adequately within its community. Like the athletes of the 2028 Olympics games, Harbour UCLA Medical center will continue to hone its craft and be the very best it can be!