As the number of LEED-certified buildings continues to grow, there are also fewer industry “firsts” when it comes to designing a sustainable facility. Nevertheless, the design and construction teams for the Arlington Free Clinic were able to do just that in their pursuit of LEED Gold certification—one level higher than originally specified—making it the first LEED Gold healthcare facility in Arlington County, as well as the first LEED Gold free clinic in the nation.
For Tama Duffy Day, national interior design healthcare leader with Perkins+Will, the Arlington Free Clinic provided the opportunity for her firm to combine sustainable design concepts with the principles of evidence-based design—previously the province of hospitals and patient rooms—in some unique ways.
The completed facility, which takes its inspiration from a flower by surrounding a community-based “core” with four essential clinic functions, demonstrates that evidence-based design can succeed outside of more formal medical settings. The facility makes use of numerous evidence-based strategies, such as allowing for increased levels of natural light in the clinic’s waiting room, incorporating a sink in every exam room to reduce the possibility of infection and laying out the facility’s areas, including a nurse station and pharmacy, in a straightforward way that improves wayfinding and reduces stress.
Sustainable features are similarly intertwined in the clinic’s concept, and a few of the efficiencies realized include:
- A reduction of water usage by 30 percent
- A reduction of energy usage by 40 percent, thanks to an efficient
HVAC system, all while providing better indoor air quality
- The recycling of more than 85 percent of all construction waste, and
the banning of materials with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) on
the job site
- The use of regionally manufactured products (47 percent) and furniture
Part of the clinic’s LEED certification also resulted from innovation credits received for the usage of 25 signage plaques around the clinic, aimed at educating volunteers and patients about sustainable design.
The results of the clinic’s transformation affirm the concept of evidence-based design, as supported through research. In a post-occupancy survey of staff, 100 percent agreed that the new space is light-filled and uplifting; 79 percent thought that more community activities and education will occur as a result of the new conference space; and 72 percent agreed that the new space “inspires health.”