Are These The Smaller, Greener Hospitals Of Tomorrow?

Kaiser Permanente posed a challenge to green architects everywhere: design a small, near-net-zero-energy hospital that uses new technology to improve health care delivery and outcomes. Now the the health care provider has announced the winning designs in its international Small Hospital, Big Idea competition, which, according to members of the contest’s jury, offer “an exciting, game-changing approach to improving the quality and personalization of care.”

Those designs were submitted by Aditazz of San Bruno, Calif., and Mazzetti Nash Lipsey Burch with Perkins+Will (both of which have locations all over the country, and the latter of which has locations all over the world). Those who’ve been following the Green Building channel here at EarthTechling will recognize the name  of Perkins+Will, as the firm’s international headquarters in Atlanta, Ga.,  recently took LEED Platinum with a score of 95, the highest ever for a new construction project in North America.

Kaiser Permanente Hospital Design Winner -- Aditazz

image via Kaiser Permanente

For such readers it will also come as no surprise that Kaiser Permanente is getting into this whole green hospital thing, as the health care provider has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent of its 2008 levels through renewables and energy savings, and has already begun to make good on that promise through rooftop solar power systems on the rooftops of fifteen different hospital buildings across the state of California and improved efficiencies at its Napa Valley data center.

All of which is to say, Kaiser is serious about building greener hospitals, and serious about the ideas contained in the winning designs of this international design contest. “For Kaiser Permanente, sustainability is a health issue,” said  Benjamin Chu, MD, MPH, group president of Kaiser Permanente Southern California and Hawaii regions, in a statement. “We aspire to provide health care in a way that protects and enhances the environment, now and for future generations. This is an important step in that direction.”

Hospital Design Winner -- MNLB, Perkins + Will

image via Kaiser Permanante

The winning teams were selected after an 11-month evaluation process that finished recently in Los Angeles with the contest’s three finalists presenting their designs. The jury selected the winning two firms over the third finalist, Gresham, Smith and Partners, based on the potential for their designs to create spaces that inspire human-to-human connection and collaboration; include civic spaces that blur the boundaries between the community and the traditional hospital setting; create a connection for patients with the natural world; move beyond carbon neutrality to actually restore ecosystems and biodiversity; and make use of a unique tool that applies silicon-chip technology to the building and design process, enabling designers and professionals to quickly explore a number of operational and space scenarios.

According to Kaiser, medical research reveals a positive correlation between exposure to nature and healing, and the winning designs make use of light-wells and rooms that are oriented around a large central courtyard, or “healing garden.”

As winners of the Small Hospital, Big Idea competition, Aditazz and M+NLB with Perkins+Will are  now eligible to contract with Kaiser Permanente for a small hospital project tentatively planned for Southern California, with the model adapted for use in other markets as well.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.