BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Children’s of Alabama’s Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children in Birmingham recently became the first health care facility in the state to earn LEED Gold certification.
The hospital’s $400 million, 670,000-square-foot expansion opened in August 2012 to accommodate the growing number of patients in the area, as well as to enhance the facility’s medical technology offerings, consolidate services and create a family-centered design to enhance the patient experience. The addition of pediatric cardiovascular surgery and solid organ transplant services, moved from nearby University of Alabama at Birmingham, were also incorporated in the project.
“The goal was to replace the majority of the disciplines that were in the existing hospital,” said Stephen Powell, consultant for KLMK Group, which served as the project manager. “Instead of renovating, we decided to replace units, as well as add a cardiovascular unit that the hospital did not have.”
In addition to KLMK Group, the project team consisted of Hoar Construction in partnership with BE&K as construction managers and HKS Inc. in partnership with Giattina Aycock Studio as architects. All companies have offices in Birmingham, except for HKS Inc., which has an office in Atlanta.
The project consisted of several sustainability initiatives that stood out in the design. For instance, the building’s large glass windows let in natural light to all patient rooms, waiting rooms and staff break rooms. The rooftop garden is planted with sedum, a low-maintenance, heat-tolerant ground cover native to the area. It reduces heat absorption and stormwater runoff, and it is very visible from the patient tower. The landscaping also includes a variety of plants that are indigenous to the area.
“I think that the main difference in building LEED is that you have an understanding of the impact on the tenants, and you can be a little more innovative in the thought process in terms of how you’re going to design it,” Powell said.
Another green building standout was the way the hospital now reuses water for landscaping and in the chilled water plant. Up to 30,000 gallons of condensate are collected from the building’s air conditioning system to be used for irrigation and also to cool equipment. A designated green space on the hospital’s campus includes a water feature for children to play in, as well as 140 bicycle racks. Several features of the expansion included using recycled and reused building materials salvaged from the demolition of two outdated buildings that were previously situated on the site.
The biggest challenge on the project was coming out of the ground because there were problems with the soil, but Powell said the team made up a lot of time by reorganizing tasks.
“Overall, it was a very efficient project and they were able to save time and money,” he said. “The biggest thing I learned is that there’s a lot of good contractors out there that are already doing things sustainably. I’m looking to have some form of sustainable construction in all health care projects and trying to look for opportunities to do that as much as possible.”