August 23, 2018
John B. Mugford

LEED is not necessarily a widespread goal for MOBs, but ‘green’ trends, including WELL, are emerging

When we at Healthcare Real Estate Insights learned that gaining LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council is no longer a widespread goal for healthcare facilities and MOBs, we decided to ask a healthcare architect about the current status of “green” design trends.

As we found out from Debra Lemons, an architect and director of interior design with Orlando, Fla.-based HuntonBrady Architects, healthcare providers, developers and architects are certainly still finding value in occupying, building and designing facilities that are considered “green.”

Here’s what she had to say:

What is the current trend in LEED certification?  

Lemons: In our experience, healthcare clients rarely pursue LEED certification because most of the valuable credits are related to energy efficiency, which can be challenging with the amount of air exchange and equipment, mechanical, and lighting loads required to operate a hospital facility. Other credits such as for recycling involve complex operational strategies and significant space that often gets re-prioritized or value-engineered. Another deterrent is the cost involved in administering and maintaining the certification, so the value of LEED certification has not been perceived by most of our clients, at least in our Florida markets, to date. This is especially evident in developer-driven MOB projects. In general, it is market driven, in which case it may be a specific agenda for a flagship facility or of that facility’s leadership’s values.

Are clients still valuing green designs even if they do not pursue LEED certification?

Lemons: Yes, absolutely. Even when our clients don’t pursue LEED certification, we strive for environmental sensitivity and consider the underlying principles of sustainable design: daylighting, locally sourced materials, building materials with low VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and high recycled content, and energy efficient building systems. Many of the energy codes now meet or exceed the criteria outlined by LEED, which has resulted in demand for improved performance of HVAC systems, plumbing fixtures, and lighting fixtures.

What are some of the latest trends in designing green medical buildings? 

Lemons: ‘Green’ is now expanding to include not just sustainable but ‘healthy’ buildings. The new WELL building certification, also managed by the U.S. Green Building Council, parallels with LEED for a holistic well-building initiative. Where LEED addresses the building and the environment, WELL emphasizes the health and wellness of the occupants in the built environment. It is a new certification, with similar rigor, quantification, and process for certification. Concepts for WELL certification that could apply to medical office buildings include daylight and views, incorporation of biophilia (interaction with others), nutrition, including healthy café or vending options, fitness/activity offerings, including a fitness center, or engaging walking paths, and choices for seating/waiting/work for employees and visitors in the building.