Ever since LEED for Healthcare was launched in 2010, I’ve fielded a lot of questions about the best way to approach a sustainability program from a healthcare perspective. To benchmark the sustainability performance in a healthcare facility, it helps to have a framework that uses meaningful metrics to track performance. The following are a few such frameworks that are specifically tailored to healthcare facilities and fall into two categories, 1) for the design and construction of new healthcare buildings or major renovations, and 2) for the day-to-day operations of existing healthcare facilities. Guides like the Green Guide for Healthcare are great to get your feet wet, while rating systems such LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) allow for the achievement of a third-party certification and recognition.

Healthcare Industry Buildings – New Construction and Major Renovations

  • The Green Guide for Healthcare: Design & Construction is a free guide developed by the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems and Health Care Without Harm that can be used to gear the new construction process in the right direction. Remember, this is not a third-party rating system, but rather a guide for implementation for benchmarking facilities. For a more concrete program, use a third-party certification, such as LEED for Healthcare.
  • LEED for Healthcare was launched in 2010 (officially released in 2011) by the U.S. Green Building Council as an adaption of the LEED for New Construction Rating System specifically for inpatient, outpatient and licensed long-term facilities, medical offices, assisted living facilities and medical education and research centers. LEED for Healthcare (LEED-HC) goes beyond the typical LEED requirements for new construction projects to include credits that uniquely address healthcare such as achieving a connection to the natural world for patients and employees, minimizing potable water use for healthcare-related process loads, phasing out the use of products and materials with harmful elements (such as mercury and lead), and improving acoustical quality of spaces.

Operations & Maintenance for Healthcare Facilities

  • The Green Guide for Healthcare: Operations is a free framework that can be used to engage in benchmarking performance across a variety of sustainability topics in the day-to-day operations of a healthcare facility. It addresses staff education, transportation, energy efficiency, water conservation, chemical management, waste management, green cleaning, integrated pest management, environmentally preferable purchasing, and more. Again, this guide is not a third-party rating system, but it can be used to supplement and optimize your healthcare-specific approach when using LEED-EBOM. For instance, your LEED-EBOM Sustainable Waste Management Policy can include a section that addresses the disposal of regulated medical waste, as outlined in the guide.
  • LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM) is another way to go to officially certify the sustainability of facility operations, although its not tailored specifically for healthcare. LEED-EBOM focuses on implementing a series of policies and plans that set standards and procedures for areas like waste management, sustainable purchasing, green cleaning, and integrated pest management. Although the requirements do not focus on healthcare, each plan can be written to address the specific issues of the facility. It’s reasonable to adapt any LEED-EBOM program for a healthcare facility, and the rating system does a good job of getting at the core issues. To certify, the building has to prove that it’s performing to the required standards during a performance period, usually three to four months long.
  • If you want to start smaller, you use the Practice Healthcare Eco-Checklist for Operations to evaluate the current status of your overall sustainability program. You can also use tools like Greenhealth Tracker for waste management or ENERGY STAR for Healthcare for energy and water use to gauge where your facility stands in those individual areas.

You can kick-start the implementation of a framework by creating a sustainability team that can take the lead in performing a gap analysis for the facility. A gap analysis looks at your facility’s current performance and compares it to each piece outlined in the chosen framework. It is a great, easy way to ground your program in the specific realities of your facility. Through this process, the sustainability team can determine appropriate metrics to benchmarking performance (maybe borrowing from the frameworks listed above), achievable goals, and a timeline and action plan for implementation.

No matter which framework you choose to use, think about goals that are meaningful for your healthcare facility, and that have the greatest potential for improving your facility’s overall sustainability performance.




About Joshua Radoff

Joshua Radoff, the co-founder and Principal of YR&G sustainability consultants, has a background in sustainable energy engineering and works at the intersection of the energy, climate, and green building fields. He is a regular speaker on sustainability issues and the LEED rating systems and has consulted on hundreds of sustainability projects for both public and private sector clients, nationally and internationally. Radoff brings a broad knowledge of waste reduction methods, water efficiency programs, green site and building exterior maintenance, recyclable products and renewable energy offsets.