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Green building: Creating healthier environments for everybody

27 October, 2008

Green building practices do more than reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy costs and waste.

In Australia, healthcare professionals in hospitals, clinics, diagnostic centres, aged care and mental health facilities are discovering that green buildings can help improve patient outcomes and boost staff morale.

According to Romilly Madew, chief executive of the Green Building Council, green buildings can have a significant impact on the health and comfort of their residents.

“According to the OECD’s Environmentally Sustainable Buildings report, illness from indoor air pollution has become one of our most acute building challenges – with building materials, ranging from paints to carpets, leading to occupational health issues.

“Nowhere is this more critical than in health care institutions. Patients benefit from the natural light and cleaner, fresher air that are the foundation stones of green buildings, and healthcare professionals are seeing accelerated recovery rates as a result.

“Green building can also help hospitals stay within budget.  Not only do green building practices help hospitals and health clinics to lower energy costs and reduce waste, but they can dramatically improve the working environment for staff, which in turn improves work performance and reduces staff turnover.”

The Green Building Council of Australia launched the Green Star environmental rating system for buildings in 2003.  Green Star, which is recognised as Australia’s national environmental rating system, evaluates the green initiatives of building projects based on a number of criteria, including energy and water efficiency, indoor environment quality and resource conservation.  

The recently released Green Star - Healthcare PILOT rating tool evaluates the environmental potential and integrated fitout of health and aged care facilities.  It also assesses major refurbishments of existing facilities.

Projects are awarded a Green Star rating based on accumulating credit points in eight categories.  Specific ‘sector credits’ are also included in the Healthcare tool, including:

- Placement and maintenance of air distribution systems
- Patient and staff access to clean and healthy outdoor areas
away from outside air inlets and smoking zones
- Energy efficiency of medical equipment
- Efficiency of portable water systems used for cooling laboratory equipment
- Disposal and reduction of toxic trade wastes
- Reduction of airborne emissions, especially from laboratory exhaust systems


 “The Healthcare rating tool seeks to reduce toxins and provide a healthier, healing environment,” Madew says.  “This tool can help hospitals and healthcare facilities to reduce the environmental impact of their buildings, improve patient health outcomes and staff productivity, as well as achieve real cost savings.”

Governments around Australia are already recognising the importance of greening their healthcare facilities.  The Victorian Government, for instance, has allocated $3.9 million to upgrade hospitals and aged care facilities to save energy and water under its Greening Victoria’s Hospitals program, and the Western Australian Government is currently developing a policy which will require all government buildings, such as schools, police stations and hospitals, to achieve a sustainability benchmark of 4 or 5 Green Stars.

The Green Building Council of Australia is hosting a roadshow around Australia to provide more information on how green building and the Green Star rating tools can support a range of industries, including healthcare, education and retail.

The Green Star Tool Roadshow will visit the following cities in Australia:

Melbourne - Friday 31 October
Brisbane  - Tuesday 11 November
Darwin - Friday 14 November
Perth - Thursday 20 November
Hobart - Monday 24 November
Canberra - Tuesday 25 November
Sydney - Wednesday 26 November

One-day workshops will provide participants with an understanding of the Green Star environmental rating system, case studies from specialist speakers and insights into green building practices around Australia.  Further details, including registration costs, are available online at: www.gbca.org.au

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