Published on : August 19, 2010

Canadian Case Study ~ A Green Research Facility with Toronto Western Hospital

Canadian Case Study ~ A Green Research Facility with Toronto Western Hospital

With every new building development there is an opportunity to make it better than developments in the past; to make it more cost effective, more efficient and more sustainable. The Krembil Discovery Centre (KDC) is the newest project at Toronto Western Hospital (TWH), one of three hospitals that comprise University Health Network (UHN) in the city of Toronto, Ontario.

This new addition to TWH has provided a platform for UHN to demonstrate - in a big way - how Canadian hospitals are working towards sustainable healthcare. The new structure has been planned and designed with green initiatives in mind and has gone above and beyond sustainable standards. The development of the KDC building has set the bar high and is expected to have its grand opening in 2013.

The development of KDC is essential to the future of neuroscience research in Canada. TWH is turning this dream into reality. The space has been carefully designed to match the calibre of the world’s brightest and best researchers, physicians and medical staff. The research that will be housed in this 325,000 square-foot research facility is poised to make a global impact in areas such as brain tumours, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord injury, glaucoma, arthritis and other disorders that face an aging population. Once completed, the $150-million facility will feature nine floors. The space will include research, laboratories, core facilities, lecture and seminar rooms. One and a half floors will be dedicated to UHN’s Rehabilitation Solutions, a unique enterprise that provides innovative health and disability management solutions.

The Green KDC

With the growing culture of environmental responsibility, it is essential that the KDC development not only be designed and constructed with green initiatives in mind, but also to ensure its sustainability. With the assistance of the Energy and Environment department at UHN, from the planning stage to its current construction stage, energy and environmental issues are constantly being evaluated and considered throughout the project.

The KDC team is constantly asking themselves, how can we measure our energy conservation techniques and how can we do even better? Following the direction of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and sustainable principles, the KDC building has been registered with the Canadian Green Building Council as a LEED Silver Project. Energy and environmental considerations have been made on all levels of the KDC project; from materials that have been selected to the colour of the roof top. All green initiatives are decided based on a balance between cost, maintainability and the criteria of LEED.

Keeping KDC’s environmental impact in mind, local vendors are always considered when selecting materials for the development. This helps reduce KDC’s carbon footprint by causing less emissions that comes from shipping products across the country or across the globe. Some of the equipment that will most likely be purchased in Southern Ontario, 800km from the site, includes emergency generators, air handling units, boilers and chillers. In addition to considering where materials are purchased, materials are also being considered based on higher recycled content than the industry norm, such as concrete and curtain walls.

KDC will be primarily used as a research facility and some of the different materials and chemicals that doctors and researchers will be using require higher considerations for the airflow in the building. This always drives up energy costs than a typical office building.  To meet this challenge, tests are underway at UHN’s existing research facility to determine the efficiency of using sensors to test air quality and to control the number of air changes per hour. Instead of having a system that has 20 air changes per hour, a series of sensors would constantly “test” the air quality and reduce or increase the air flow as required.  This could significantly reduce energy costs for the hospital. If these tests are successful then a similar system would be installed into KDC.

Rubber flooring is being considered in parts of the building because this product not only comes from a renewable resource but also requires very little maintenance. Rubber flooring involves less frequent washing which reduces TWH’s overall water consumption. KDC will also have a white roof which will decrease the amount of heat absorbed from the sun thereby reducing the amount of air conditioning required.

KDC Going Above and Beyond

It isn’t enough to just think about energy and environmental issues in the planning and construction stages. UHN has also put a lot of thought into an efficient operational plan for KDC. With this plan, the building will be running at optimum efficiency at all times, reducing utility costs and extending the lifespan of equipment. In order to successfully implement an efficient operational plan, it will require more measuring and installing more meters than a typical building. The way to keep the operational costs down is to have an extremely energy efficient building and to have an operations plan that ensures the building is properly maintained to minimize repairs and replacement costs. Continuous monitoring, improvements and implementing regular reviews of the operating procedure is how this new addition to TWH will continue to achieve and sustain the highest level of efficiency.

The construction of KDC has been guided by LEED and sustainability principles. UHN was able to go above and beyond some of the suggested guidelines, not necessarily to gain LEED points, but rather because it is the right thing to do. More UHN employees are choosing to cycle to work putting pressure on the organization to accommodate this demand for facilities. To get the LEED points, KDC needs to provide enough bike racks to accommodate for 5% of the building occupants.  This is projected to be about 1500 people meaning 75 bike racks are needed. These storage amenities are typically outside and usually shower facilities are also made available.

The approach with KDC was to provide enough space to store at least 120 bikes indoors, in addition to the bike racks outside. Indoor bike storage provides more security and convenience so people will be further encouraged to bike to work. Shower and locker facilities are also being constructed specifically for bicycle commuters. In order to increase the convenience for a green commute, there will be an elevator that will take cyclist directly to these new facilities.

“We aren’t just building what we’ve built before; we are raising the bar and doing even better,” says Scott Patterson, Project Manager for KDC.

Historically, the health care industry has one of the larger environmental footprints. UHN has made considerable changes towards creating a sustainable development in order to help reduce the environmental impact. In addition to the obvious environmental benefits of these green initiatives, they also reduce long-term costs for the hospital. For every dollar that TWH does not spend on operations is another dollar that can be spent on research and patient care. It is a worthwhile investment to make.

University Health Network consists of Toronto General, Toronto Western and Princess Margaret Hospitals. The scope of research and complexity of cases at University Health Network has made it a national and international source for discovery, education and patient care. It has the largest hospital-based research program in Canada, with major research in cardiology, transplantation, neurosciences, oncology, surgical innovation, infectious diseases, and genomic medicine. University Health Network is a research and teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto.

Toronto Western Hospital has been serving the health care needs of its culturally diverse local community for more than 100 years. Home to the Krembil Neuroscience Centre, one of the largest combined clinical and research neurological facilities in North America, the Toronto Western Hospital is a leader in medical research and also offers expertise in community and population health and musculoskeletal health and arthritis.

About The Author

Priscilla Hsu works in the Public Affairs & Communications Department at University Health Network (UHN) currently sited at Toronto Western Hospital (TWH). She has been working on the communications for the construction of the new world renowned research facility at TWH, the Krembil Discovery Centre (KDC). Priscilla is a graduate from the University of Western Ontario with an Honours Specialization in Media Studies and has also completed a Corporate Communications post-graduate certificate program at Seneca College.