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Jun 082009

Photo: Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas

Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas is full of natural light with spacious windows

Perhaps the nation’s best example of a hospital designed with the environment, energy, health and green practices in mind is Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin. The hospital, opened in 2007, recently received the prestigious LEED Platinum award, the first platinum given to a hospital.

The LEED award (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design), given by the U.S. Green Building Council, honors buildings that prove superior in multiple aspects of environmental concern.

The Dell Children’s Medical Center — more than 505,000 square feet with 176 beds — has an impressive list of green design elements. According to the hospital’s director of design and construction, they include:

  • Xeriscape plantings in the large Healing Courtyard and other courtyards that are planted to represent the many different eco-regions in central Texas.  Native plant landscapes save 1.4 million gallons a year in irrigation water (which is reclaimed water).
  • About 1.7 million gallons of water a year is saved because of low-flow plumbing fixtures and dual flush toilets. Dell uses up to 40 percent less water than four other hospitals of similar size in the area.
  • A combined cooling and heating system and power plant is 75 percent more efficient than coal-fired plants, with sharply lower emissions of nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide. The steam that is produced by the combustion chamber is used to chill the hospital’s water.
  • The builders recycled 91 percent of their construction waste, saved 15,000 million BTUs of energy and kept 3,234 tons of carbon dioxide out of the air.
  • Indoors, the center is full of natural light with spacious windows, which studies have shown can contribute to faster healing of patients and lowered stress for employees. To withstand the blistering Texas summers, high-performance glass keeps the heat outside. Air is distributed under the floor, plumbing fixtures are low-flow, lights are high-efficiency and controlled to dim when not needed.
  • Dell Medical Center recycles an estimated 9.5 tons a month (the equivalent of 135 trees per month), and 20 percent of the building materials were recycled content. The hospital recycles enough to save 570 cubic feet in the landfill every month, and to save 47 barrels of oil a month.