How sustainable buildings are transforming healthcare

23 Jan 2019

23 January 2019

Patient outcomes are better, productivity is improved and ongoing energy costs are reduced in health-industry buildings that are Green Star-rated, according to new a research report.

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), with the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC), has today released ‘The case for sustainable healthcare’, which revealed the triple bottom line benefits of green-certified health facilities following a review of national and international healthcare facilities.

GBCA CEO Romilly Madew said there were demonstrated benefits from sustainable buildings and challenged the healthcare industry to step up.

“Hospital patients and vital healthcare workers deserve better,” she said.

“We know patients and workers in Green Star-certified buildings report higher health and productivity. This can lead to faster patient recovery times, increased employee satisfaction and lower staff turnover, as well as lower ongoing energy costs. The positives are too big to ignore.”

Ms Madew pointed to the 10 per cent and growing healthcare share of GDP – about $170 billion in 2015-2016 – saying vital funds should be used to deliver the most efficient healthcare infrastructure possible.

“We must become smarter about stretching our healthcare spend further,” she said. “Green buildings have proven cost benefits, in addition to the improvements for patients and workers.”

Ms Madew said less than one per cent of more than 2,000 Green Star-rated buildings across Australia were in the healthcare sector and most were offices. 

“If office workers are benefiting from a healthy sustainable workplace, then so should sick people and their doctors and nurses,” she said.

‘The case for sustainable healthcare’report was sponsored by NAB, which is supporting the transition to a low carbon economy through a commitment to provide $55 billion dollars in environmental finance by 2025. This includes $20 billion to support green infrastructure, capital markets and asset finance and $35 billion in new mortgage lending flow for 6 Star residential housing in Australia. 

The report found theNew South Wing of Flinders Medical Centre in South Australia, a five-star Green Star-certified building, saved $400,000 a year thanks to a solar-heated hot water system. It also reduced water consumption 20 per cent through rainwater harvesting.

Austin Hospital’s Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre, the first certified Green Star – healthcare project in Victoria – no longer uses any potable water for irrigation because of its 120,000 litre rainwater-storage facility.

Queensland’s newly opened $1.8bnSunshine Coast University Hospital is tipped to operate at 40 per cent lower peak energy demand when it is fully occupied in 2021.

And New Zealand’s Forte Health Building in Christchurch reportedstrong tenant and patient satisfaction. It also offeredstate-of-the-art operating theatre ventilation including “scavenging” devices to remove potentially infected air from circulation. 

The Australian examples build on international research that showed patient benefits from green buildings. These included a 15 per cent faster recovery for people with depression when they were cared for in facilities with natural sunlight; a 30 per cent drop in medical errors in better designed rooms;and a 41 per cent shorter average stay for patients in sunny rooms compared to those without access to natural light.

The report found hospitals typically used more than double the energy and six times the water per square metre compared to an office block.

Green Star certification provides an internationally recognised mark of the quality of design, construction and operation of sustainable buildings. Green Star-certified buildings and communities use 66 per cent less electricity than average Australian city buildings, half the potable water than minimum requirements, and produce 62 per cent lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Full Paper 

Executive Summary