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Jun 082009

By Melissa Segrest
Green Right Now

Photo: Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas

Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin was the first hospital to receive the LEED Platinum award

For too long, hospitals have been less than healthy – inside and out.

They burn massive amounts of medical waste that spew the carcinogen dioxin into the air. They are energy gluttons, operating 24/7 – creating untold amounts of greenhouse gases and leaving massive carbon footprints. They traditionally have used about twice as much energy as regular office space.  From toxins in lab chemicals to dangerous elements that leach from IVs and catheters made of vinyl plastic tubing, the place you go to heal may not always be good for you.

That is changing, thanks to powerful non-profit groups, architects with green expertise and some of the nation’s largest hospital systems.

The massive Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston removed vinyl composition tile floors and is replacing them with a renewable rubber product that doesn’t need strong chemicals to stay clean.

The new University Medical Center at Princeton will let natural light into rooms, and sensors will lower artificial light as needed, saving energy.

From using old, cotton jeans for insulation to biodegradable bed pans, innovations are appearing in health care systems. Large hospital groups, such as Kaiser Permanente, Catholic Health Care West, the Veterans Administration and the City of Chicago are turning to sustainable and renewable hospital operations and designs, in no small part due to the tremendous cost-savings of reduced electricity and water consumption.