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VOL. 6 | NO. 37 | Saturday, September 07, 2013

Cutting Edge

Methodist applies sustainable design to Olive Branch hospital

By Michael Waddell

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Methodist Olive Branch Hospital opened its doors late last month, and hospital officials can expect to see dramatically reduced energy costs thanks to innovative, environmentally friendly design features like photoelectric glass and a geothermal heat pump system – one of the first of its type in a hospital in the U.S.

Newly opened Methodist Olive Branch Hospital has moved to the forefront of sustainable design with the goal of maximizing patient comfort.

(Jeffrey Jacobs)

“We try to be as green as we can and incorporate sustainability into all of our projects,” said Methodist project manager Richard Kelly, who was previously also on the production team for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. “A big focus is on patient and occupant comfort and satisfaction. We believe – and there are metrics to support this – that family and friend involvement during the healing process decreases hospital stay time and the amount of re-admissions.”

Construction on the $100 million, 210,000-square-foot Methodist Olive Branch Hospital was completed under budget and in only 16 months, dramatically less than the 22-month norm for most major hospital projects.

Architectural design and engineering firm Gresham, Smith and Partners of Nashville was part of an integrated project delivery team for the 100-bed, five-story hospital. Team members included Gresham, Smith and Partners; Smith Seckman Reid Inc.; and Turner Construction Co.

The project marked Gresham, Smith and Partners’ first vertical construction project in the Memphis area and its first collaboration with Methodist Healthcare System. The firm has specialized in health care-related projects for the past 45 years, and it is ranked as one of the top 10 health care design firms in the country, according to Modern Healthcare magazine.

“We consider the Methodist Olive Branch Hospital project to be a raging success,” said Gresham, Smith and Partners health care architect Brent Hughes. “The sustainable features will ultimately make this a more cost-effective and efficient hospital to operate in the future.”

Methodist Olive Branch is the first hospital in the country to use a photoelectric glaze that can transition from clear to a variable tint at the touch of a button, enabling operators to instantaneously reduce glare and solar gain.

The glass is produced by View Dynamic Glass (formerly Soladigm), a Milpitas, Calif.-based company whose manufacturing facility is just a few miles away from the hospital. View approached the designers about using the product on the facility in some capacity so they could have a showpiece in the area to bring potential clients.

The glass is installed in the two-story lobby to minimize the energy needed to heat and cool the large atrium space.

“It’s a photoelectric glazing system that has solar monitors on the exterior of the building that smoke tint the glass through an argon gas in the double-glazing of the window. It tints itself as the sun moves around the building, and helps to reduce heat gain and to regulate how much air conditioning is being used in the lobby,” Hughes said.

Methodist Olive Branch Hospital is now one of only three hospitals in the country with a geothermal heat pump system, which utilizes the earth’s natural heat and uses heated or cooled water to distribute heat throughout the facility. The process is seven times more efficient than air at carrying heat.

“While it costs a bit more up front, in the long term it pays for itself within five years,” Kelly said.

More than 200 geothermal heat pumps are installed throughout the building, including one in each patient room. Soundproof closets were designed to house the pumps in each room, allowing patients and families to enjoy both individualized climate control and a consistently quiet, calming atmosphere.

“The closets are disguised so one would not perceive that they are there,” Hughes said.

Methodist Olive Branch Hospital expects to receive an Energy Star rating of 95 thanks to the sustainable design features, as well as simpler solutions like the orientation and location of the building in order to minimize eastern and western solar exposure. The national average Energy Star hospital rating is 50, and a high performer usually ranks at 75.

One major hurdle in the project came up after purchasing the land for the hospital.

“We found that there were more than 300 tree trunks buried on the property, and we had to spend more than $250,000 to have them dug up and removed,” said Kelly.

The hospital’s design includes 100 patient rooms, which were made larger than usual to accommodate pull-out beds, but the hospital will start by opening only 60 rooms.

“That way we can grow to better suit the needs of the community, whether it is by building out more labor and delivery beds or more med surrogate beds,” Kelly said. “We can expand as the need arises.”

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