Einstein Healthcare Network’s newest medical center, the largest healthcare facility built in southeastern Pennsylvania in over a decade, earned LEED NC Silver certification a few months ago – just in time for Greenbuild, which is being held this year in nearby Philadelphia. Below are the details behind a handful of the project’s exceptionally sustainable qualities.
The team behind Einstein Medical Center Montgomery (EMCM) developed multiple strategies for selecting building materials that both reinforce sustainable practices and reduce long term life cycle costs. Evaluations for exterior materials centered primarily on high performance while standards of maintenance, durability, and known impact on human health were especially key when selecting interior finishes. Additional variables considered for each material included direct costs, amount of reduced energy, building material renewal schedules, and ongoing operation and maintenance costs.
The type and coloration of exterior building materials were carefully considered in order to take full advantage of solar gain where desired, while minimizing it in areas where it is unwanted. The spandrel and opaque surfaces of the exterior of the building are primarily Masonry, a highly durable material with a long life cycle that effectively acts as a thermal storing system. The areas of the building that are exposed to increased levels of direct sunlight are of a very light color and highly reflective, reducing the amount of unwanted heat that is stored.
Inside, a variety of materials were considered partly due to stringent standards for infection control. Terrazzo, a natural flooring material, was selected for all highly trafficked public areas of the building as it offers a forty-year life span and can be actively maintained to meet infection control standards with the use of non‐toxic cleaning products. Porcelain flooring, another natural and highly durable material, was used for all public toilet and food service areas. The material selected for all crash rails and corner guards is PVC‐free and also meets the Silver level of one of the most robust environmental rating systems: Cradle to Cradle Certification.
For the project, a commitment was made to locally source at least 10% of all building materials, both inside and out, meaning that the materials would be extracted, processed, and manufactured within 500 miles of the site. This approach reduces the emissions and costs associated with vehicular delivery to the site. In addition, over 25% of the total value of materials used in the project came from recycled content.
In designing the site, our team prioritized minimal disturbance of the natural landscape, preservation of natural resources, and budget. A series of connected bioswales and culverts, which use native and adapted vegetation, diverts site stormwater to an on‐site retention basin. This allows the water to naturally percolate and recharge the water table, reducing both upfront and long-term costs associated with stormwater management. Careful selection of vegetation means that the landscape will rely on the natural rainfall of the site, eliminating the need for sub‐surface irrigation systems that can come with high maintenance costs. These landscaping choices also eliminated the need for costly and potentially harmful pesticides.
The building has been orientated on the site to effectively address issues of solar gain throughout the year. Specifically, in the winter, sunlight enters the building in a way that minimizes supplemental heating, but the building’s design also reduces solar gain it in the summer and therefore minimizes the need for supplemental air conditioning. In addition, high performance Low‐E glazing was employed at all conditions throughout the exterior, promoting high visibility and visual access to the natural environment while also attaining an overall low solar heat gain factor.
A Long-Term View
A healthcare building, even a medical center as large as EMCM, will cost less to run and maintain throughout its life cycle if it is designed, engineered, and built sustainably. All of the team’s design decisions were vetted through a rigorous process that considered both upfront costs and costs of maintenance over time – the Life Cycle Costs. We carefully considered issues of Site, Water and Energy Management, and Materials individually and holistically, since it is only through combining innovative strategies that overall building performance can be optimized. Our team also collaborated closely with the client in regard to Operations, considering how patients, staff, and visitors would use the building on the first day of occupancy as well as fifty years in the future. Fundamentally, the most sustainable building is the one that is designed to serve its community in multiple ways for the long-term.
This post was authored with Anthony Caputo.