Published on : May 06, 2011
10 Values to Meet the Triple Bottom Line
What does incorporating Sustainable Design in a project mean to you?
This is an important first question to ask before engaging in the sustainable design process. While the usual responses are energy savings or recycling programs, they are but part of a holistic approach to sustainable design rooted in the fundamentals of a triple bottom line that includes economic, environmental, and social benefits. Today, the healthcare sector, which has traditionally been slow to embrace many aspects of sustainability, is uniquely positioned to drive the green movement towards the recognition of the interdependence between a healthful environment and the individual wellbeing. To spur the acceptance of this concept and encourage development of environmentally respectful architecture, which is restorative to human health and economically viable, architects and designers are developing sustainability models to educate the design team and users, to guide decision making, and to accelerate the achievement of holistic healthcare.
Project Approach to Sustainability
While there are any number of green building products and technologies available in the market that offer sustainable solutions to design problems, and rating systems that provide good tracking and certification tools, what project teams and clients are looking for comes down to two critical questions:
How do we incorporate sustainability as a best practice in each of our projects?
How do we achieve sustainably designed facilities and green operations that are more than the sum of add-on green technology and products?
A set of guiding principles that facilitate the integration and monitoring of sustainability. The framework, which seeks to balance the triple bottom line goals, is comprised of ten synergistic values:
Site: Sustainable site practices begin with choosing the right location and densities, sound master planning practices, designs that nurture eco-systems and minimize construction impact.
Energy: Healthcare projects inherently require higher energy consumption increasing the need for efficient and high-performing design solutions that consider optimum massing, form, orientation, efficient building envelope and an integrated systems approach.
Water: Implementing strategies directed towards reduce or reuse/recycle water in buildings and the surrounding landscape help to save this vital natural resource.
Material: Material choices impact not only the environment but also human health and activity and waste reduction.
Response to locality: Solutions that respond to climate, context, culture and ecology of a region are a means to advance practice of sustainable living.
Biophilic Design: Designs that provide a connection to nature and the outdoors have proven to facilitate healing, enhance productivity and answer the human instinct to be biologically inclined towards nature.
Social Satisfaction: Conducting pre-design and post-occupancy surveys and verifying a client's sustainability goals from project start up are means to ensure social satisfaction. Further, the data collected helps pave the way for future projects extending the practice of evidence based design to realm of sustainability.
Healthy Environments: Designing for elevated indoor environmental quality encourages physical activity. Fosters healing, productivity and improves the livelihood of the people who interact and inhabit the building.
Financial Success: Designing with a life-cycle approach, an understanding of operational savings and verified performance, when combined with financial gains for enhanced productivity and patient satisfaction help to ensure economic sustainability.
Adaptability - Longevity: Healthcare development projects bring a long-term commitment on the part of hospital owners, healthcare providers and facility managers to make designing for resilience an important aspect of sustainable design for healthcare. It is important that designers anticipate and position for the future by incorporating flexibility to meet long-term needs.
The first five values – Site, Energy, Water, Materials and Response to locality –address the environmental aspects of sustainability, while Biophilic Design, Social Satisfaction and Healthy Environments speak to the Social aspect, which, in turn, are balanced by the emphasis on economic sustainability provided by Financial Success and Adaptability.
Examples in Action
The strength of this framework is that it encourages integrative solutions. While each of these values are important individually, together they guide design teams to think holistically about incorporating sustainable design strategies in their projects.
The Center for Science & Health Professions design competition team used the Project Approach to consider appropriate, encompassing sustainable strategies for the project rather than drilling down into a checklist. Starting with an eco-charrette based on the 10 Values, the team developed a design concept that responds to site and climate, incorporating strategies that simultaneously work towards reduced environmental impact and reduced energy consumption while providing maximized daylight and air-quality, connections to outdoors and an increased green cover, which will contribute to a healthy building that is comfortable for the occupants. A proposed roof trellis is a good example of a synergistic response to four of the ten values- site, energy, biophilic design and adaptability. Designed to reduce building energy loads by shading and, at the same time, provide a connection to nature with its green cover, which emulates the existing dense and shady tree canopy around the site, the trellis further serves as infrastructure for a photovoltaic array on the building in the future.
In addition to a design tool, the Project Approach serves as a documentation tool upon project completion. At the Jersey Shore University Medical Center, early sustainable design integration positioned the project to earn a LEED® Gold Certification. Following the project's completion and certification, the 10 Values framework has provided a means to document sustainability features, the targets, and milestones achieved by the project as well as the lessons learned in each of the categories. This creates a case study tool that demonstrates ways to incorporate sustainable design on future projects. Though in the early stages of development, this aspect of the system paves the way for a connection between evidence-based design and sustainability.
Though developed with a focus on the triple bottom line, the model is influenced by commitment to strengthen the connection between human health and environment espoused by sustainable healthcare practitioners. The system provides a structure for integrating sustainable design as a best practice on projects, before there is a decision on a rating system or certification process. Such models, tailored to the specifics of practice and firm culture, can serve as powerful tools for goal setting, tracking and documentation. As importantly, they provide a design-driven, holistic approach for incorporating sustainability.
Komal Kotwal, is the Sustainable Design Coordinator, for WHR Architects. She is responsible for facilitating and coordinating Sustainable Design/LEED efforts for complex healthcare facilities, education, science and technology projects. Komal brings to the table a dual Architectural Design and Master planning background, lending to a holistic approach and understanding of Sustainability at various scales. She may be reached at: 713-665-5665 www.whrarchitects.com