Responding to climate change through urban medical campus design


Urban medical institutions play an important role in promoting and guaranteeing public health through extensive and critical spaces and services. But to what extent does their physical campus support this public health mission?

Especially in the context of climate change, the reality is shocking. In fact, according to data from Health Care Without Harm, an international non-governmental organization concerned with environmental and social justice, the healthcare sector is the main contributor to the climate crisis, with an impact equivalent to nearly 4% of global net carbon emissions.

What can be done to help reduce the industry’s impact on the climate? The planning and design process provides many opportunities to influence change and respond to the climate crisis. For example, the implementation of more efficient and sustainable building systems can significantly reduce the carbon emissions of operating energy-intensive and extensive campuses. The design team can also work to promote other basic climate-related needs in the coming decades, including supporting alternative transportation options and managing rainwater to protect communities from flood events.

With these goals in mind, here are three strategies that architects and urban designers try to make an impact through planning and design:

  1. Energy efficiency and utility management. In the commercial office and multi-family residential areas, designers have long used solar arrays and other on-site power generation, as well as energy-efficient mechanical systems, fixtures, and appliances to push customers to a higher level of energy efficiency. In order to promote public health from an environmental and climate justice perspective, the design team must also encourage healthcare clients to adopt these forward-looking building systems and utility management practices throughout the campus. On the scale of the building, specifying high-efficiency LED lighting, low-flow fixtures in restrooms, and even modern MRI machines and laundry equipment can significantly save energy and have a positive impact on the organization’s carbon footprint.

The technology and design of mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems can also minimize local emissions and reduce energy and resource use. For example, grey water reuse systems treat used water with chlorine and ultraviolet rays, and then recycle it for toilet flushing and similar functions, thereby reducing water consumption.

  1. Proactive design and transportation alternatives. In the past ten years, the core principles of active design, such as setting up stairs to encourage physical movement, have been widely accepted as a means of using buildings to support public health. In order to improve public health outcomes and reduce carbon emissions in the urban medical park environment, active design on a wider scale has proven to be another useful strategy.

For example, master planning initiatives or architectural initiatives should consider the opportunity to locate patient plans and main entrances within walking distance of transportation hubs or bus stops (Livable City Institute and many other planning organizations recommend approximately 10 minutes). In addition, designing safe and barrier-free walking routes inside and outside the medical park and hospital complex can create natural incentives for the use of public transportation and reduce private car emissions, thereby reducing the overall carbon footprint of activities related to the medical park and promoting healthy behaviors Patients and the entire community.

  1. Plan for severe weather events. With extreme flooding now becoming more common in urban environments, efforts to reduce carbon emissions (mitigation) are not enough to protect the medical school and its surrounding communities from the severe effects of climate change. The strategic location, scale, and land ownership of many medical parks provide a canvas for solutions that can improve their ability to withstand extreme flood events. Choosing the most effective solution depends on many factors, including climate, hydrogeology, the location and characteristics of existing buildings, as well as local policies and public utility management practices.

However, in general, the design team should give priority to upgrading the on-site water storage and storage system by creating a strong and resilient rainwater system-this approach reduces Impacts of severe weather in areas such as building entrances, public squares and pedestrian rights of passage. For the new research campus of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP; Philadelphia), Cooper Robertson developed a solution that can not only cope with current conditions, but also future challenges, using a combination of green roofs, rain gardens, and underground reservoirs to achieve collection , Transport and retain 85% of the rainwater generated on site.

By taking a holistic approach to the urban medical park, the design team can tackle multiple, wide-ranging, but interconnected challenges at the same time. Climate change, resilience, and public health are closely linked, and when creative design solutions take all three issues into account, the entire community sees benefits.

Anjulie Palta is Cooper Robertson (New York).Her contact information is [email protected].



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