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A Clean Bill of Health
Promoting healing and health isn’t just the job of doctors and nurses at Rockingham Memorial Hospital – the building itself plays a key role in patient recovery through environmental stewardship.
The first hospital in Virginia to achieve LEED Gold certification, Rockingham Memorial Hospital (RMH) infuses sustainability into every corner of the 630,000-square-foot building. The facility’s design and performance emphasize IAQ, energy efficiency, water conservation, waste management, and land preservation.
One of the most interesting features of this project is an unexpected source of renewable energy. Methane gas may be associated with cows, but Rockingham is using this landfill byproduct as fuel.
Because methane is a guaranteed revenue source for the county, it can charge a lower rate for methane than natural gas. To take advantage of a stabilized energy price, the hospital installed methane tri-fuel boilers. The alternative power has the potential to save over $400,000 annually, depending on current natural gas costs.
Located on a greenfield site in rolling farmland, the hospital’s design maintains the integrity of the pastoral setting. The construction team carefully sidestepped wholesale excavation, an environmentally disruptive and costly process, in favor of placing the building’s footprint within the contours of the hilly terrain.
To further establish the hospital as a good neighbor, site lighting was designed to minimize light pollution. “We made sure that the outdoor light fixture poles were an appropiate height with full cut-off style fixtures and minimal spillover at the project boundary,” says Eric Sheffer, senior project manager at SSRCx. “The density of the lighting was also designed to save significant energy when compared to the code minimum.”
With extensive parking lots on the 254-acre site, the impact of stormwater runoff on downstream watersheds and nearby farms was another concern. To address this dilemma, a stormwater system directs water to enhanced detention ponds that filter runoff before it reaches the surrounding ecosystem, explains Sheffer. This system also helps preserve existing wetlands, which provide natural landscaping and are available to university students for research.
The same attention applied to the property site was also carried into the interior design. Warm colors and wood laminates bring the outdoors in and create a soothing aesthetic. Terrazzo floors were selected for their long life, low maintenance, and high recycled content. Sealants, paints, cleaning supplies, and carpet were specified as low or no VOC to support good IAQ.
Throughout the process, RMH found that a number of LEED points could be achieved simply by using good design principles. A cost-benefit analysis identified strong system paybacks. Value engineering was also used to counter the inflation of construction costs, ensuring quality without sacrificing budget. Though the hospital originally pursued LEED Silver, upon completion of the project, the team was delighted to learn RMH had earned Gold certification.
“Pursuing LEED and incorporating sustainability into a healthcare facility is a responsible move for hospitals,” says Harold Petty, AIA, director of medical design and principal for Earl Swensson Associates. “Today, more than ever, hospitals are recognizing that preservation of natural resources and minimization of the impact on the environment will benefit the healthcare industry and generations to come.”
PROJECT TEAM (partial list)
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Architect (Award Submitter):
M/E/P and IT Engineer:
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CHILLERS AND AIR HANDLERS: