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Healthcare Development & Architecture

The Future of LEED for Healthcare

Healthcare Development & Architecture

The role that the built environment plays in our health and well being is beginning to be more deeply understood.  Studies have linked dramatic increases in health, satisfaction and productivity to living and working in green buildings.  Green buildings not only use less energy and water and have less of an impact on the environment, healing in greener health facilities has the potential to positively impact the human recovery process.

As the connection between the built environment and human health is established, so is the role of the built environment in the human healing process.  Research has shown that people who are treated and heal in, daylight, nature-connected healthcare facilities with improved indoor environmental quality, heal faster, subsequently having shorter hospital stays.

A 2008 study by McGraw Hill Construction found that greens building reduce instances of asthma and air-contaminants that lead to two million patients annually acquiring infections during hospital stays. A 2004 University of Pittsburgh study showed that patients with access to sunlight required 20 percent less pain medication, leading to lower medical costs.

The healthcare industry’s services touch everyone’s life in one way or another, and undoubtedly play a large role in optimizing human health. And while the healthcare industry’s role is indispensible, it is responsible for consuming nearly twice as much energy per square foot as a 24 hour per day facility. However, the healthcare industry as a whole has made significant progress in reducing its impact on the environment and the health and well being of the patients, doctors and nurses that use these facilities daily.  Currently, 85 healthcare projects have received LEED green building certification, with over 850 in the pipeline as registered projects.

An industry so deeply rooted in the health and well-being of the community will soon have a green building rating system tailored to its unique needs. When launched later this year, the LEED for Healthcare green building rating system will address issues such as reducing chemicals and pollutants, access to daylight and views to the outdoors, and traveling distances from parking facilities.

The LEED for Healthcare rating system is currently open for its second public comment period and is an important addition to the LEED family of certification systems.  LEED for Healthcare is the first rating system adapted for the healthcare industry, and it builds on the early work of the Green Guide for Health Care (GGHC), a project of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems and Health Care Without Harm.  

It’s an important addition to the LEED family of certification systems and was developed to meet the unique needs of a 24-hour operational facility, including process water use related to medical equipment, rural facility locations, sensitivity to chemicals and pollutants, patient and staff health and many other issues that are unique to this building type.

Once launched, LEED for Healthcare will help a diverse pool of project types achieve LEED certification, from inpatient, outpatient, assisted living and long term care facilities, to medical offices, education and research centers.

The second public comment period for the LEED for Healthcare rating system will be open from April 19, 2010 until Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 5:00 pm ET. Visit to learn more.

About the Author

Ashley Katz is Communication Manager at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for our nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. With a community comprising 80 local affiliates, more than 18,000 member companies and organizations, and more than 155,000 LEED Professional Credential holders, USGBC is the driving force of an industry that is projected to contribute $554 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product from 2009-2013. USGBC leads an unlikely diverse constituency of builders and environmentalists, corporations and nonprofit organizations, elected officials and concerned citizens, and teachers and students. For more information, visit

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