Milwaukee, WI, November, 2010 – Like all healthcare facilities, the new Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Milwaukee is committed to healing patients. But, it is also designed to improve the planet’s health as well, with green technologies that will reduce energy consumption and minimize the hospital’s impact on the environment.
“Columbia St. Mary’s is committed to healthcare that works and that includes providing healthcare that works for the environment and demonstrates stewardship of God’s creation,” said Paul Westrick, vice president of mission integration and advocacy for Columbia St. Mary’s. “Every watt of power we save and every ounce of water we conserve brings us one step closer to a sustainable environment. In addition, every dollar we don’t spend on energy means one more dollar we can invest in our primary mission – to make a positive difference in the health status and lives of individuals and our community, with special concern for those who are vulnerable.”
Two rooftop gardens are the hospital’s most visible green features. There is a 12,800-square-foot garden on the fifth-floor roof overlooking North Avenue and a 6,000-square-foot garden on the roof of the entrance atrium at the corner of Lake Drive and North Avenue. The rooftop gardens absorb rainwater, relieving pressure on the city’s drainage system during storms, while providing aesthetically pleasing landscapes that can be viewed from patient rooms. They will also reduce energy costs and extend the life of the roof by creating a protective barrier between the roof and outside elements.
Columbia St. Mary’s received a $325,000 grant from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s 2010 Green Roof Initiative to help pay for the roof garden system, which was developed by LiveRoof LLC, a Michigan firm. The gardens are planted with different varieties and colors of sedum, myrtle euphorbia and allium, which are low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants. The plants on the atrium roof are landscaped with a sunset design.
Rain Screen Protects Building’s Exterior
The exterior of the hospital utilizes a “rain screen” wall ventilation system to better insulate the exterior walls and keep moisture and mold from entering the hospital. Developed in Europe, the high-performance system utilizes a small, 1.5-inch air cavity between the exterior wall and mineral board insulation.
“The air cavity creates a self-ventilating exterior wall that provides another layer of insulation and allows the exterior wall to dry out between water events,” said William Wahle, vice president and senior medical planner for HOK Group, Inc., who served as project manager for the new hospital. “This design also provides a superior water barrier that will prevent mold from developing inside of the hospital.”
Several energy-savings strategies were implemented to minimize the hospital’s carbon footprint.
A computerized lighting system automatically adjusts the building’s exterior lighting, based on both the time of day and the time of year. In winter months, for example, the exterior lights will automatically turn on in late afternoon when it starts to get dark; in the summer, the lights will turn on later in the evening.
In addition to saving money, the programmable lighting will also serve as a visual wayfinding tool, lighting entrances that are open to visitors and dimming areas of the hospital that are closed or not in use. It will also help to blend the hospital into the surrounding residential neighborhood, especially in the evening.
Inside the hospital, high-efficiency fluorescent lighting will consume less energy while generating the same amount of light as standard fixtures. In non-patient areas of the hospital, motion sensors are used to control high-efficiency fluorescent lamps so that these areas are illuminated only when they are in use.
“There is not a single wired incandescent bulb in the building,” Wahle said. “By using fluorescent lights with a high color rendering index, the lighting is not as cold and clinical as a typical hospital. In addition, the building was designed to let daylight reach as many interior areas as possible, adding more warmth to the interior lighting.”
Additional energy savings were achieved by using variable frequency drives to operate the hospital’s ventilation system and its chilled and hot water pumps. Variable-speed drives continually adjust fan or pump speed based on demand, which can reduce energy costs by 50 percent when compared to fans and pumps that operate at uniform speed. The hospital is also using a new type of vertical-flooded heat exchanger system that minimizes the water lost when steam is converted to hot water. Vertical-flooded heat exchangers can reduce both energy costs and greenhouse emissions by 20 percent when compared to standard shell-and-tube exchangers.
Columbia St. Mary’s commitment to sustainability dates back to the earliest days of the project. Before demolition crews razed the St. Mary’s Hill Building to clear the site for the new campus, they removed copper tubing, wooden doors and any other materials and fixtures that could be recycled or re-used. It then ground down the remaining concrete and rubble to create the roadbed for the Marquette Interchange. When measured by weight, approximately 80 percent of the demolition debris was recycled, including all of the concrete, drywall, metal and wood, according to an analysis conducted by WasteCap, a non-profit organization that monitors waste reduction and recycling efforts.
The Green Team
While the new hospital is the most visible example of Columbia St. Mary’s ecological stewardship, the health system has launched several initiatives to improve the environment and promote sustainability. In May 2010, Columbia St. Mary’s received the Making Medicine Mercury-Free award for virtually eliminating the use of mercury in its facilities. Mercury, a toxic chemical that can cause poisoning and death, is used in fluorescent lighting and many other applications. Practice Greenhealth, a nationwide networking organization that promotes environmentally sustainable healthcare practices, honored Columbia St. Mary’s for reducing the use of mercury in its facilities and processes and for implementing a mercury-free purchasing policy. The organization also recognized the health system for planting 100 trees in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
Columbia St. Mary’s Green Team, which was formed in January 2010, includes more than 15 representatives from departments throughout the health system. The team meets monthly to discuss green initiatives and benchmark the system’s progress.
The Garden Café, the new cafeteria located on the hospital’s lower level has implemented several initiatives to promote environmental sustainability. It purchases local produce and bakery whenever possible and serves hormone-free chicken, hamburgers and milk. In order to reduce its waste stream, the cafeteria stopped selling pre-packaged individual servings of cereal and replaced Styrofoam and other products that have to be landfilled with cups, plates and straws made from materials that can be composted.
“Stewardship is an important part of Columbia St. Mary’s operating mission and includes being a good steward of the earth’s resources,” said Westrick. “We are very proud of what we accomplished and of what we will continue to accomplish every day through our sustainability initiatives.”