6 Reasons “Green” Facilities are Good for the Environment and Your Health

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We know that being environmentally friendly benefits the health of the planet, but what can it do for your health? More than you might think.

Pending Gold Certification under the United States Green Building Council LEED Core and Shell 2.0 rating system, the new Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center incorporates a bevy of sustainable or “green” concepts into its design.

Here are six ways the cancer center is benefiting the health of the environment and its patients.

1. Using Local Building Materials Reduces Carbon Dioxide.

Over 56 percent of materials used to construct the core and shell components of the Baylor Sammons Cancer Center came from within a 500-mile radius of the building site. Not only does selecting materials close to the job site have a positive economic impact on the region, but it also reduces the amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere caused by transporting those materials.

For example, the new cancer center has over 34,000 cubic yards of concrete as part of the building structure—that’s equivalent to a four-foot sidewalk over 130 miles long! All of the concrete was extracted, processed and manufactured from within 100 miles of the building site saving thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

2. Recycled building materials.

Approximately 20% of the Cancer Center was built from recycled materials. Steel used as part of the construction was recycled from cars and other scrap metal sources. A by-product of coal-fired power plants; fly ash was recycled into concrete mixes and poured as part of the building structure.

3. That “new” smell isn’t always a good thing.

Have you ever noticed the chemical smell of paint, cleaning solutions or wood products? Chances are you’re smelling a Volatile Organic Compound, also known as VOCs, which in high concentrations have been linked to cancer. In the new Cancer Center, paints, carpets, adhesives and all other building materials were chosen for their low VOC content to prevent exposure to the building occupants.

In areas where chemicals are mixed, like janitor closets, extra ventilation was incorporated to exhaust the chemical smell from the building.  Finally, at the completion of construction, the building was flushed out with fresh air so that any lingering VOCs were removed from the building.

4. Construction waste can be recycled too.

During construction, over 95% of waste associated with the construction of the Cancer Center was diverted away from landfills and sent to recycling centers across the region.  Materials such as concrete washed out from delivery trucks, trees that were removed from the site, scrap metal left over from stud framing, and wood used during the framing of concrete forms contributed to over 7,200 tons of waste diverted from the landfill.

Each material was sorted into separate dumpsters, weighed and then hauled to their respective recycling centers to be used again as a post-consumer recycled material. Who knows, that next bottle you drink out of might have been part of the Cancer Center construction.

5. The Parking Garage is strategically placed.

Locating nearly 80% of the parking underground and in a covered parking structure, the Cancer Center is having a cool impact on the Dallas urban heat island. Light colored materials for the roof help reflect the sun during the day and prevent the building from absorbing energy that is released as radiant heat during the night. Reducing the surface area associated with parking and constructing the parking garage out of light-colored materials also contributed to a reduction in radiant heat released at night.

6. Water conservation is key.

Making a serious commitment to saving potable water, the Cancer Center reduced water consumption to 30% less than the EPA minimum standards. Water use reductions are achieved by using electric sensors for all lavatory faucets, providing dual flush toilets and using low flow fixtures where possible.

We would love to hear your feedback. Do you have any healthy “green” tips to share?

This blog post was contributed by Ian Sinnett, Senior Associate, Perkins + Will. Ian was the architect responsible for the initial building, planning and sustainable design integration of the Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center.

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6 Reasons “Green” Facilities are Good for the Environment and Your Health