Introductory module - What are sustainable healthcare buildings?
What do we mean by sustainable healthcare buildings?
On a human level, defining sustainable buildings is fairly simple - it means balancing the economic, social and environmental factors of a building project to maximise the benefits the building can bring to the local community and economy whilst minimising the impact of the building's construction and operation on the environment.
In other words, sustainable buildings are:
Buildings that are safe, healthy and productive for their users and owners, make a positive contribution to their local surroundings, and have a minimal impact on the local and global environment both today and for generations to come?.
For healthcare buildings, we can break this down into a series of ten key principles covering both the performance of the buildings themselves and how they interact with their local surroundings:
1. Integrating with the local environment & promoting regeneration
2. Meeting the needs of & providing facilities for local communities
3. Providing accessible transport options for all members of the community
4. Delivering cleaner, greener and safer public spaces that are rich in biodiversity
5. Using resources (e.g. energy & water) efficiently
6. Providing flexibility and adaptability to meet changing service needs
7. Considering whole life performance, including long-term asset value
8. Providing a quality internal environment to support health and well-being for users
9. Using materials that reduce environmental and health impacts
10. Reducing pollution and waste to avoid health and other impacts
Obviously, sustainable buildings should also be delivered through sustainable processes, including effective stakeholder engagement and on-site construction activities, such as:
Managing health and safety requirements on site
Avoiding nuisance and disruption for staff, users and neighbours
Minimising waste, pollution and environmental damage
Some information is provided about sustainable construction processes in Module 8; further details are also available from other sources such as the Government's sustainable construction strategy. Information about stakeholder engagement is also provided in Module 9.
Why is this important?
There are many reasons why it is important to improve the sustainability of healthcare buildings:
1. To improve the efficiency of service delivery
Sustainable buildings can improve the quality of the patient environment, reduce patient recovery times and increase the productivity of your workforce
2. To increase the long-term usability and value of the building
Taking a long-term view will increase the flexibility and adaptability of your building to meet your changing service requirements
3. To reduce costs and access additional funding
Additional funding can be obtained from non-health sources to help improve the quality of your project - some projects have even been funded from 100% non-health sources.
4. To provide additional facilities for staff, users and local communities
Developing partnerships with local communities and organisations can improve the hospital environment, increasing staff and user satisfaction and improving local ownership and involvement with the Trust
5. To improve public health among local populations
Providing public green space, encouraging walking and cycling, and reducing pollution from engineering and waste systems can all significantly improve public health
Further details on these benefits are provided in Module 3 or click on the link for each benefit.
A few statistics about the environmental impacts of the NHS every year, and of buildings in general, should also help to highlight why, in environmental terms, it is important to take a sustainable approach:
1. The NHS consumes approx 45 million GJ and generates 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions
2. The NHS creates over 350,000 tonnes of waste
3. The NHS uses about 40 billion litres of water per year
4. Buildings in use account for approximately 50% of all UK CO2 emissions
5. Construction generates about 20% of all UK waste
Although these figures look daunting, improving the performance of your buildings can help to make a difference in reducing all these impacts.
What do I have to do?
There are many policy and approval reasons why Trusts need to focus on the sustainability performance of their buildings, including:
1. Local planning and building control requirements
2. NHS policies and funding approval requirements
3. National and local Government policies
Some of these policies are simply good practice guidelines; others can prevent or delay the approval and delivery of your project. For example:
BREEAM - all new NHS buildings are required to achieve a BREEAM 'Excellent' environmental performance rating and 'Very Good' for refurbishments
Energy Targets - all new buildings are required to meet the NHS energy performance target of 35- 55 GJ/100m3.
Planning policies - many Local Authorities now require 10% of energy requirements to be provided from renewable sources.
More details on requirements that will affect your project are provided in Modules 1 & 2.
How do I go about delivering sustainable healthcare buildings?
We hope that you will start thinking about your sustainability aspirations right up front at the start of the procurement process, ideally even before you've got the firm details of your service requirements in place. This will give you maximum flexibility to consider the need for and location of any buildings you may require, long before you are tied down by restrictions on the layout and form of the building design. If this is the case, it is worth familiarizing yourself with the context for creating a sustainable building by reading through modules 1-3, and then developing a sustainable vision and budget for your project, as described in Modules 4 & 5.
However, if you've already embarked on the process with your own building, don't despair - there are lots of steps you can still take to help ensure you get a more sustainable solution, although the earlier you are in the process, the more likely it is that you will be able to make significant improvements. First, identify the procurement stage that you've reached, and then check out the information in the relevant guidance module, as listed here;detailed guidance and case studies will show you what can be done at each stage and will demonstrate particular improvements that have been made on real life projects by other NHS Trusts.
Finally, if you have embarked on a new building project, or are about to do so, please either make contact with the SHINE project team (click here) or come along to one of our events (click here) to find out more about the services we offer and how we might be able to help you improve the sustainability performance of your project.