The glass cladding used by Chinook Regional Hospital offers the lightness and reflectivity of a curtain wall without negatively impacting R-values. Photo: Andrew Latreille

Lethbridge hospital pioneers LEED for Healthcare rating in Canada

The Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge, Alta., is the first facility in Canada designed and built to achieve silver under the LEED for Healthcare rating system. First released in 2011, this system was part of a move by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to make LEED more specific to different building markets. Industry can now see firsthand how it works in Alberta through the Lethbridge project, completed last year.

“We wanted to be the first,” says architect Kirsten Reite, formerly with Perkins+Will and currently with Kirsten Reite Architecture (KRA). “From talking to our peers and doing exercises looking at different LEED certifications for projects, the feedback was, ‘There’s this new system for hospitals. Let’s be the first, let’s be innovative and let’s go for it.’”

Built by Stuart Olson and designed by Perkins+Will and Group2 Architecture Interior Design, the $127-million project includes a 19,000-square-metre, five-storey addition and about 3,500 square metres of renovations to parts of the existing health centre. Both proved challenging—the addition because of the difficulty in meeting the demands of the new rating system while constructing on a site that was already full of buildings and activity, and the renovation because the hospital had to remain operational throughout construction.

According to Melissa Baker, vice-president of technical solutions for the USGBC, LEED for Healthcare grew out of the 2009 version of LEED. The organization had set out a strategy to create LEED standards that could be applicable globally while allowing for regional differences.

“We tried to take that core rating system for building design and construction and make it applicable to different market sectors, looking at things like, in LEED for Healthcare, emphasizing healing spaces,” she says.

That emphasis on healing spaces resulted in the creation of a garden on the roof of Chinook Regional Hospital, which gives patients and staff an attractive outdoor respite area.

“In a hospital, when you create outdoor space, especially this one on the fourth floor of the building, you need to think about the safety of the patient and about creating a space that is welcoming and can be used all year round. That was challenging, but we were able to achieve it,” says project manager Julie Verville, who was with Perkins+Will at the time the building was designed and is now with KRA.

Initially, the design team planned to have an open atrium to bring natural light into the building. That proved difficult due to the building codes and fire ratings. Instead, glass floor cutouts were installed so light could travel from light scoops on the rooftop into common areas of the building.

“It’s a benefit to the project and well received in regard to supporting wayfinding, wellness and just a general non-institutional feeling,” Reite says.LAP0164 2105The extensive use of natural light to illuminate the interior of Chinook Regional Hospital helped contribute to a 30 per cent reduction in lighting power density. Photo: Andrew Latreille

Chinook Regional Hospital is also the first building in Alberta to have glass cladding. Typically, a curtain wall is used to reduce the sense of scale or feeling of heaviness a large building creates, but that wasn’t possible when going for LEED for Healthcare. The glass cladding, provided by Keith Panel Systems, was cost effective and provided the lightness and reflectivity of a curtain wall without negatively affecting R-values.

“We ended up selecting a quite simple pattern that was easier and more cost effective to install for the contractor. In retrospect, it was a great solution because it allows the building to reflect wonderful cloud patterns on sunny days. The building is continually changing depending on the surrounding weather, producing a very positive effect,” Reite says.

The team has registered the project and submitted for the first round of LEED review, but they are still finalizing the final documentation before they can receive confirmation of certification. LEED for Healthcare has more stringent requirements than LEED for New Construction, which made it more challenging to achieve gold under the hospital-specific system, Verville notes.

“We have compared it to other projects, and if we were using the LEED for New Construction rating, we believe that we would achieve the gold rating in terms of points,” she says.

But the USGBC wasn’t trying to make it more difficult to achieve certification when it developed LEED for Healthcare, Baker says. It wanted to take into account things that are specific to these types of buildings. For example, a project under the New Construction system might be required to be within a half-mile of a bus stop in order to earn the associated point. The same requirement does not necessarily work in a health-care setting.

“Perhaps a health-care facility needs to be only a quarter-mile distance from a bus stop because if you’re injured or infirm in some way you couldn’t walk the distance,” she explains. “So we’re trying to take the principles of being located near transportation and encouraging people to use public transportation, and then making it more applicable to a health-care setting and to the people that would be using that hospital.”

Sustainability highlights

The sustainable features of the Chinook Regional Hospital project include:

  • High-performance building envelope;
  • Efficient mechanical and electrical equipment, including heat recovery for the ventilation system and lighting controls;
  • Providing cooling savings by using the existing hospital’s chilled water;
  • A building management system capable of identifying the amount of energy and water being used;
  • Reduction of persistent bio-accumulative toxic chemical sources— mercury in lamps, lead, cadmium and copper;
  • Installing bio-based resin flooring instead of conventional PVC-based flooring;
  • Using plants natural to the area in the landscaping; and
  • Recycled fill.
  • As a result of these and other features, Alberta Infrastructure reports the project achieved a 42 per cent reduction in water consumption use for medical equipment, building equipment, cooling towers and food waste systems; a 26 per cent reduction in energy use; and a 30 per cent reduction in lighting power density.

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