ASHE award winner talks about the future of green construction

Hospital Safety Insider, December 16, 2009

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Recently recognized by the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) as a leader in facilities management, Donald E. Wojtkowski, FASHE, PE, executive director of design and construction at SSM Health Care in St. Louis, promotes patient viewpoints as the cornerstone of medical center design.

Wojtkowski won the inaugural ASHE Excellence in Facilities Management Award for “outstanding commitment to improving the healthcare physical environment.”

He shepherded the construction of the St. Clare Health Center, a new 154-bed hospital that opened March 30 in Fenton, MO. In the following excerpt of Briefings on Hospital Safety’s Q&A with Wojtkowski, he discusses ecological priorities during hospital construction and why his project went forward without seeking formal Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designation. LEED is a green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Q. Congratulations on the award. Ecological concerns during the planning of St. Clare’s, you’ve said, was a priority but not the driving force behind its design. Why?
A. The thing that we did really differently at St. Clare was we started off trying to identify what the optimum patient experience should be. Rather than have the patient experience be an outcome of the design process, we wanted it to drive the design process.
It caused us to look at things differently, [as we established] a bunch of patient experience teams we formed early in the process that followed patients through our existing facilities, brainstormed on what we would think the optimum experience would be, and brought in patient focus groups to help us understand their point of view.
Q. The facility isn’t LEED-certified, right?
A. Designing green was very important to us, but we made a very important decision early when we identified the cost for pursuing LEED certification—not for accomplishing the LEED initiatives, but the administrative costs of the commissioning to get the credential. Rather than invest in a credential, we decided to invest those funds [about $250,000 at the time] in tangible, green initiatives. We tracked all of our LEED points … We believe we earned more than 26 [minimum points to gain the credential], and if we went for certification, we would have achieved it, but certification wasn’t our goal.
Read the full Q&A in the January issue of Briefings on Hospital Safety, which is part of all subscriptions to the Hospital Safety Center. In this issue, you’ll also learn how to improve your life safety programs in 2010 and why geographic information system (GIS) mapping technology is helping hospitals enhance their disaster preparedness.
Don’t forget, you can always take a 14-day free trial of the Hospital Safety Center.

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