Monroe Clinic Pursues Green Building Certification for Northwest Addition Project

Green County will be home to one of the state’s first “green” hospitals when Monroe Clinic’s Northwest Addition opens in early 2012.

Monroe Clinic has committed to achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED certification is a voluntary rating system for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. The certification is based on achievement in several categories including: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy efficiency and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design. The Northwest Addition will be the first LEED Silver-certified building in Green County.

It’s a challenging process, but it goes to the heart of Monroe Clinic’s commitment to the communities it serves, said Steve Borowski, director of facility services.

“Being a Catholic-sponsored organization, stewardship of resources is an important part of who we are,” Borowski said. “We believe building green is the right thing to do. We want both the accountability and proof that LEED certification brings. It’s a source of pride for the community and attractive to physicians and staff who want to be associated with an environmentally progressive organization.”

Healthcare facilities face unique challenges when trying to apply green practices, Borowski added. Unlike office buildings, hospitals operate around the clock under very regulated conditions, which eliminates many obvious conservation tactics. LEED certification for healthcare is relatively new. As of 2009, there were less than 10 LEED-certified healthcare facilities in Wisconsin. Most of them are outpatient clinics located in the Fox Valley. Nationally, just three percent of current LEED-certified projects are healthcare-related and most are not as energy-intensive as hospitals, which care for patients on a 24/7 basis. When the project is complete in early 2012, Monroe Clinic may become the first Wisconsin hospital to achieve Silver certification status. 

Monroe Clinic, working in collaboration with architect Kahler Slater and engineer Ring & DuChateau, is using new technologies and eco-friendly practices to meet LEED’s stringent requirements. Highlights include:

  • Three green roofs that lessen runoff and reduce demands on the air conditioning system. Two of the roofs will be near patient rooms, providing attractive views. The third roof garden, adjacent to the chapel, will be accessible to visitors.
  • An emphasis on natural lighting. Studies show natural light improves people’s mood and may help patients get home sooner. High-performance low-e windows will be used to reduce summer heat absorption and winter heat loss.
  • Brine reclaim technology for the water softening system, which returns some of the salt water to the brine tank rather than flushing it down the drain. The system will use 25 percent less salt and water and send less brine to the water treatment facility.
  • Leading-edge boilers and chillers that are up to 30 percent more efficient than code requirements, saving more than $200,000 annually.
  • A landscaping plan that minimizes, and in some areas eliminates, the need for mowing, fertilizing and watering.
  • Use of local materials, made within 500 miles of Monroe, whenever possible. For example, the selected brick is made in the area. Materials that contain recycled content are also preferred.
  • Energy-efficient light fixtures that use 30 percent less electricity and will save more than $35,000 per year. Some areas will use occupancy sensors rather than light switches. Patient rooms will have softer, more indirect lighting that feels homier than a typical hospital room. 
  • Low-flow toilets, faucets and showerheads to conserve water.
  • Narrower parking spaces for the employee lot. The spaces are wide enough for easy access, but the small change saves more than 5,000 square feet of asphalt when multiplied by 500 vehicles.
  • Construction-waste recycling. Working with general contractor C.G. Schmidt, the goal is to recycle 75 percent of waste, including asphalt, wood, metal, drywall and other materials.

Monroe Clinic has already made significant efforts to lessen its impact on the environment. Housekeeping staff use green cleaning products and water-conserving microfiber mops. The changes didn’t increase costs or compromise infection control, Borowski said. Through an employee education campaign, Monroe Clinic has also reduced the amount of medical waste it produces. This has saved significant money because removing medical waste is much more expensive than regular waste.

While building green typically adds 2-3 percent to construction costs, Borowski said Monroe Clinic expects to more than recoup the costs over time.

“When we discovered some of these technologies, it was such a win-win situation,” Borowski added. “We will see lasting savings on utilities while providing a beautiful, restful environment for our patients, staff and guests.”